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  • 1 Lund University, Sweden
  • 2 University of Bradford, UK
  • 3 University of Hohenheim, Germany
  • 4 Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany
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Background and aims

Betony (Betonica officinalis L.) is one of the rarest and most spectacular plants in the Scandinavian flora. A long-term question has been whether it is spontaneous or introduced, or whether it comprises both spontaneous and introduced populations. This study aimed to answer this question by analyzing sequence data from the nuclear external transcribed spacer (ETS) region and three regions of the plastid genome, the trnT–trnL intergenic spacer (IGS) region, tRNA-Leu (trnL) intron, and the trnS–trnG IGS.

Materials and methods

Altogether 41 samples from 11 European countries were analyzed. A unique duplication in the trnT–trnL IGS was detected in material from Skåne (southern Sweden), the “Skåne-duplication.” Populations with this duplication are united on a moderately supported branch in the phylogeny based on plastid sequences. A distinct heath genotype from Yorkshire was discovered in the phylogeny based on plastid sequences and in a comparative cultivation.

Results

Phylogeny based on ETS sequences does not support any Scandinavian group, whereas a principal coordinates analysis ordination based on variable ETS positions indicated a spontaneous origin for all Scandinavian populations, which comprise a genetically well-defined subgroup of the species, most closely related to other spontaneous populations from adjacent parts of continental parts of northern Europe.

Discussion

Seven possible naturally occurring localities remain in Scandinavia, five in central Skåne, southernmost Sweden, and two on the southwestern part of the Danish island of Lolland.

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