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Natural Resources Science


Interspecific hybridization can lead to the extinction of native populations and increased aggressiveness in hybrid forms relative to their parental lineages. However, interbreeding among subspecies is less often recognized as a serious threat to native species. Phragmites australis offers an excellent opportunity to investigate intraspecific hybridization since both native and introduced lineages occur in North America. Introduced Phragmites is a highly successful estuarine plant invader throughout North America, but native Phragmites populations are declining in the eastern US. Despite range overlaps, hybridization has not yet been detected between the native and introduced lineages in the wild, suggesting that phenological or physiological barriers preclude cross-pollination. We demonstrate, for the first time, that native and introduced populations of Phragmites can hybridize. There is substantial overlap in flowering period between native and introduced populations from the same geographic locations. We manually cross-pollinated native individuals with pollen from introduced Phragmites and recovered viable offspring. We then used microsatellite markers to prove that alleles unique to the pollen parent were transferred to progeny. Our results imply a mechanism for the further decline of native Phragmites in North America and a potential for the formation of aggressive hybrid offspring.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Laura A. Meyerson and David V. Viola are from the Department of Natural Resources Science.

Rebecca N. Brown is from the Department of Plant Sciences.