Genetic variation in Pueraria lobata (Fabaceae), an introduced, clonal, invasive plant of the southeastern United States

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American Journal of Botany


Pueraria lobata (kudzu), a clonal, leguminous vine, is invading the southeastern United States at a rate of 50 000 ha per year. Genetic variability and clonal diversity were measured in 20 southeastern U.S. populations using 14 allozyme loci. Within its U.S. range, 92.9% of the loci were polymorphic and overall genetic diversity was 0.290. Such high levels of genetic diversity are consistent with its history of multiple introductions over an extended period of time. The average proportions of polymorphic loci and genetic diversity within populations were 55.7% (range = 28.6–85.7%) and 0.213 (range = 0.114–0.317), respectively. The proportion of total genetic diversity found among populations was similar to species with equivalent life history characters (GST = 0.199). No regional patterns of variation were seen. The number of putative genotypes in each population ranged from 2 to 26. Mean genotypic diversity was 0.694, ranging from 0.223 to 0.955. Such high levels of genotypic diversity indicate that local sites are often colonized by several propagules (most likely seeds) and/or that sexual reproduction occurs within populations after establishment. An excess of heterozygosity was observed in populations with few unique genets, implying that selection for highly heterozygous individuals may occur in populations of P. lobata.