Molecular genetic data reveal hybridization between Typha angustifolia and Typha latifolia across a broad spatial scale in eastern North America
A recent increase in the abundance of cattails (Typha spp.) in North American wetlands has been anecdotally linked with hybridization between Typha latifolia and Typha angustifolia. In this study, we used molecular genetic markers (microsatellites) to investigate whether the hybrid lineage (Typha × glauca) is restricted to The Great Lakes region, or exists across a much broader spatial scale. We also investigated the possibility of backcrossing and genetic introgression in natural populations. Parental species could be distinguished from one another based on the distribution of alleles at six microsatellite loci. Species identification based on genetic data corresponded well with species identifications based on leaf width, a key morphological trait that can distinguish the two parental species. We found that hybrids occur in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, but we did not detect hybrids in Maine. F1s are more abundant than backcrossed or intercrossed hybrids, although we also found evidence of backcrossing, particularly in Ontario. This indicates that hybrids are fertile, and are therefore potential conduits of gene flow between the parental species. Further work is needed to determine whether T. × glauca is particularly successful in the Great Lakes region relative to other areas in which the two parental species co-exist, and to assess whether introgression may lead to increased invasiveness in the species complex. âº We investigated whether cattail hybrids (Typha × glauca) occur over broader spatial scales. âº Hybrids occur across eastern North America, potentially contributing to the increasingly invasive behaviour of Typha. âº Our data also suggest backcrossing and advanced intercrossing in natural populations. âº T. × glauca hybrids appear to be fertile in many geographical areas.