Remnant Oak Savanna Acts as Refugium for Meadow Fescue Introduced During Nineteenth Century Human Migrations in the USA
In 1990, an unknown forage grass was discovered growing in the shade of a remnant oak savanna in southwestern Wisconsin. Over 12 years, the practice of feeding mature hay on winter pastures spread this grass onto over 500 ha via seedling recruitment. Analysis of amplified fragment length polymorphic (AFLP) markers on 561 plants, compared to a diverse sample of wild European collections of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), Italian ryegrass (L. multiflorum Lam.), meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis Huds. = L. pratense (Huds.) Darbysh.), and tall fescue (F. arundinacea Schreb.), identified a highly diverse population that was more closely allied with F. pratensis than the other species, based on genetic distances. Genomic in situ hybridization (GISH), using both Lolium- and Festuca-specific probes, led to effective hybridizations by only the Festuca-specific probes and gave indications of close homology to the F. pratensis genome. Similarly, genetic distance analysis using PCR-based Lolium expressed sequence tag (EST) markers on a subset of genotypes, compared to the four control species, clearly identified F. pratensis as the closest relative. Sequence analysis of the trnL intron of cpDNA distinguished the unknown plants from F. arundinacea, but not from Lolium. Additional survey work has identified this grass on 12 other farms within an area of about 20,000 ha. Soil samples accompanying plant samples indicated no seed banks and most farm records indicate no commercially introduced seeds during the twentieth century. We hypothesize that seeds of meadow fescue may have arrived with some of the earliest European immigrants to Wisconsin and spread along the historic Military Ridge Trail, a network of frontier U.S. Army forts connected by a major thoroughfare.
KeywordsAmplify Fragment Length Polymorphism Tall Fescue Perennial Ryegrass Amplify Fragment Length Polymorphic Italian Ryegrass
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