The plant genera in which natural hybridization is most prevalent tend to be outcrossing perennials with some mechanism for clonal (i.e., asexual) reproduction. Although clonal reproduction in fertile, sexually reproducing hybrid populations could have important evolutionary consequences, little attention has been paid to quantifying this parameter in such populations. In the present study, we examined the frequency and spatial patterning of clonal reproduction in two Louisiana iris hybrid populations. Allozyme analysis of both populations revealed relatively high levels of genotypic diversity. However, a considerable amount of clonality was apparent. Nearly half of all genets (47%) in one population and more than half (61%) in the other had multiple ramets. Furthermore, both populations exhibited relatively high levels of genetic structuring, a pattern that resulted from the aggregation of clonal ramets. The occurrence of clonal reproduction in hybrid populations could not only facilitate introgression through an increase in the number of flowering ramets per genet and/or the survivorship of early generation hybrids, but might also influence the mating system of such populations. Any potential increase in the selfing rate due to cross-pollination among ramets of the same genet may, in turn, increase the likelihood of homoploid hybrid speciation.
Corresponding Editor: K. Holsinger