Hybridization has been implicated as a driver of speciation, extinction, and invasiveness, but can also provide resistant breeding stock following epidemics. However, evaluating the appropriateness of hybrids for use in restoration programs is difficult. Past the F1 generation, the proportion of a progenitor’s genome can vary widely, as can the combinations of parental genomes. Detailed genetic analysis can reveal this information, but cannot expose phenotypic alterations due to heterosis, transgressive traits, or changes in metabolism or development. In addition, because evolution is often driven by extreme individuals, decisions based on phenotypic averages of hybrid classes may have unintended results. We demonstrate a strategy to evaluate hybrids for use in restoration by visualizing hybrid phenotypes across selected groups of traits relative to both progenitor species. Specifically, we used discriminant analysis to differentiate among butternut (Juglans cinerea L.), black walnut (J. nigra L.), and Japanese walnut (J. ailantifolia Carr. var. cordiformis) using vegetative characters and then with functional adaptive traits associated with seedling performance. When projected onto the progenitor trait space, naturally occurring hybrids (J. × bixbyi Rehd.) between butternut and Japanese walnut showed introgression toward Japanese walnut at vegetative characters but exhibited a hybrid swarm at functional traits. Both results indicate that hybrids have morphological and ecological phenotypes that distinguish them from butternut, demonstrating a lack of ecological equivalency that should not be carried into restoration breeding efforts. Despite these discrepancies, some hybrids were projected into the space occupied by butternut seedlings’ 95% confidence ellipse, signifying that some hybrids were similar at the measured traits. Determining how to consistently identify these individuals is imperative for future breeding and species restoration efforts involving hybrids. Discriminant analysis provides a useful technique to visualize past selection mechanisms and current variation in hybrid populations, especially when key ecological traits that distinguish progenitors are unknown. Furthermore, discriminant analysis affords a tool to assess ecological equivalency of hybrid populations and breeding program efforts to select for certain traits and monitor the amount of variability of those traits, relative to progenitors.


Crystal, P., N. Lichti, K. Woeste, D. Jacobs. 2016. Vegetative and adaptive traits predict different outcomes for restoration using hybrids. Frontiers in Plant Science 22. (Refereed) Doi: 10.3389/fpls.2016.01741

(CC BY 4.0)


discriminant analysis, ecological equivalency, ecophysiology, forest restoration, habitat differentiation, hybridization, introgression, Juglandaceae

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