The University of Arizona

Characterization of diversity among 3 squirreltail taxa.

T.A. Jones, D.C. Nielson, J.T. Arredondo, M.G. Redinbaugh


Squirreltail (Elymus elymoides, E. multisetus) is a complex of 5 taxa whose systematic interrelationships are uncertain. Our objectives were to determine whether the 3 taxa studied here, Elymus elymoides ssp. elymoides, E. elymoides ssp. brevifolius, and E. multisetus, can be distinguished by several ecological and physiological traits and whether geographical origin is correlated with these traits across accessions within taxa. A multivariate principal component analysis of materials collected in the 10 contiguous western states successfully distinguished taxa, but no pair of the 3 taxa appeared to be more ecologically similar than any other pair. Elymus elymoides ssp. elymoides, which prevails in the semi-arid cold desert, was shortest and exhibited the lowest total plant dry-matter, earliest phenology, and lowest seed mass. Elymus elymoides ssp. brevifolius, which prevails in the Rocky Mountains, exhibited slowest emergence, highest specific root length, lowest nitrate reductase activity, and lowest root-to-shoot ratio. Elymus multisetus, which is most common in areas with relatively warm springs, exhibited fastest emergence (particularly from deep seeding), greatest root length, and greatest root-to-shoot ratio. Elymus elymoides ssp. brevifolius accessions clustered into 3 groups: late-maturing high-seed mass accessions originating in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona (Group A), early-maturing low-seed mass accessions originating in Colorado and Utah (Group B), and intermediate-maturing low-seed mass accessions originating in the Snake River Plain of southern Idaho (Group C). The ecologically distinct subspecies and groups within ssp. brevifolius are indicative of the highly ecotypic nature of the squirreltails, suggesting that restoration practitioners should match site with genetically and ecologically appropriate plant material for these species.



Elymus elymoides subsp. brevifolius;plant taxonomy;growth traits;Elymus multisetus;Elymus elymoides subsp. elymoides;population ecology;provenance;ecotypes;plant development;geographical variation;leaves;conservation plants;height;seedling emergence;seed productivity;shoots;root systems;Idaho;Oregon;Wyoming;California;biomass;phenology;Montana;Nevada;Colorado

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