Morphological variability of Fraxinus angustifolia Vahl in the north-western Balkans

Kristjan Jarni, Marjana Westergren, Hojka Kraigher, Robert Brus

Abstract


Fraxinus angustifolia Vahl is a species native in the north-western Balkans, where it has a divided range. Most of its range is located in flood-prone riparian sites in the Pannonian plain but the species is also found on humid sites along some rivers in the Submediterranean region. We analysed morphologic variation within and between five populations (14 trees/population) located in the Subpannonian and Submediterranean region of Slovenia. Thirty two characters were assessed on ca. 80 leaves from each tree which were divided depending on exposure to sunlight (sun and shade leaves), and 8 traits on each fruit (ca. 50 fruits/tree). A hierarchically designed experiment using analysis of variance confirmed the significant contribution of all the analysed hierarchical levels of variation to the total variation. The results show that the differences between the trees in a single population are the greatest factor of variability of leaves, followed by differences between populations and differences which are the result of variation in exposure to sunlight. Leaves in shade positions are typically larger than those in sunny positions, and they have broader and shorter-pointed leaflets; in this feature they are very similar to the leaves of F. excelsior. Stepwise discriminant analysis showed that the traits which refer to the leaflet number and length are the best differentiating traits between individual populations. The Submediterranean population Dragonja stands out with the smallest leaves and the population Lijak from the same region is the most similar to Dragonja for most morphological traits. In general, phenotypic differences between the Subpannonian and the Submediterranean populations of F. angustifolia are minor and indistinct. Based on the differences ascertained by the study, we can only confirm the presence of F. angustifolia subsp. oxycarpa (Bieb. ex Willd.) Franco et Rocha Alfonso in this part of its natural range.

Keywords


plant variation; fruit; morphometric analysis; narrow-leaved ash; shade leaves; sun leaves

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References


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