Phenotypic Variation of Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) from Mississippi Persists in a Common Garden


Lisa E Wallace

Additional Authors:

Mahboubeh Hosseinalizadeh-Nobarinezhad Robert Coltharp


January 2020


Chamaecrista fasciculata, Common garden, latitudinal variation, leaf pubescence

Intraspecific phenotypic variation occurs for many different reasons and understanding its basis has applications in taxonomy, ecology, and evolution. Chamaecrista fasciculata (partridge pea) is a widely distributed species with much phenotypic variation and varied interactions with other species in communities where it grows. Botanists have often noted that phenotypic variation in some traits of this species increases from north to south in the eastern United States. In this study, we grew seeds collected from five Mississippi populations in a common greenhouse environment to determine if the observed variation in leaf and stem traits is maintained in this environment. Interpopulation variation in the greenhouse-grown plants was not as extensive as that observed under natural conditions, but significant differences were detected in the number of stems and leaves and shoot height. The number of flowers and final shoot weight of plants did not differ, suggesting that there may be multiple growth strategies for this species to achieve equal fitness. Variation was detected in stem and leaflet trichome density. The population collected at the lowest latitude showed the most distinct morphology, producing shorter plants with many branched stems, more leaves, and a higher degree of leaflet pubescence. Trait variation that has so often been observed in natural populations of this species is maintained in a common environment, suggesting a genetic basis for the observed variation. Phenotypic variation observed in this species may reflect both responses to varied selective pressures from interacting species and adaptation to differing climatic factors.