Polyploidy: a missing link in the conversation about seed transfer of a commonly seeded native grass in western North America

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The use of local, native plant materials is now common in restoration but testing for polyploidy in seed sources is not. Diversity in cytotypes across a landscape can pose special seed transfer challenges, because the methods used to determine genetically appropriate materials for seed transfer do not account for cytotypic variation. This lack of consideration may result in mixing cytotypes through revegetation, which could reduce long-term population viability. We surveyed nine populations of a native bunchgrass, Pseudoroegneria spicata, in three EPA Level III Ecoregions in the western United States to determine the frequency of polyploidy, whether there are differences in traits (phenotype, fecundity, and mortality) among plants of different cytotypes, and whether cytotype frequency varies among ecoregions. We assessed trait variation over 2 years in a common garden and determined ploidy using flow cytometry. Polyploidy and mixed cytotype populations were common, and polyploids occurred in all ecoregions. Four of the nine populations were diploid. The other five had tetraploids present: three had only tetraploid individuals whereas two had mixed diploid/tetraploid cytotypes. There was significant variation in traits among cytotypes: plants from tetraploid populations were larger than diploid or mixed populations. The frequency and distribution of cytotypes make it likely that seed transfer in the study area will inadvertently mix diploid and polyploid cytotypes in this species. The increasing availability of flow cytometry may allow ploidy to be incorporated into native plant materials sourcing and seed transfer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-190
Number of pages7
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Pseudoroegneria spicata
  • cytotypic variation
  • local ecotype
  • native plant materials
  • revegetation


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