The genus Castanea in North America contains several tree and shrub taxa of conservation concern. The two species within the group, American chestnut (Castanea dentata) and chinquapin (C. pumila sensu lato), display remarkable morphological diversity across their distributions in the eastern United States and southern Ontario. Previous investigators have hypothesized that hybridization between C. dentata and C. pumila has played an important role in generating morphological variation in wild populations. A putative hybrid taxon, Castanea alabamensis, was identified in northern Alabama in the early 20th century; however, the question of its hybridity has been unresolved. We tested the hypothesized hybrid origin of C. alabamensis using genome-wide sequence-based genotyping of C. alabamensis, all currently recognized North American Castanea taxa, and two Asian Castanea species at > 100,000 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) loci. With these data, we generated a high-resolution phylogeny, tested for admixture among taxa, and analyzed population genetic structure of the study taxa. Bayesian clustering and principal components analysis provided no evidence of admixture between C. dentata and C. pumila in C. alabamensis genomes. Phylogenetic analysis of genome-wide SNP data indicated that C. alabamensis forms a distinct group within C. pumila sensu lato. Our results are consistent with the model of a nonhybrid origin for C. alabamensis. Our finding of C. alabamensis as a genetically and morphologically distinct group within the North American chinquapin complex provides further impetus for the study and conservation of the North American Castanea species.
Vol. 46 • No. 4
Vol. 46 • No. 4