In vitro micropropagation of endangered Rhododendron ponticum L. subsp. baeticum (Boissier & Reuter) Handel-Mazzetti

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In vitro propagation of Rhododendron ponticum L. subsp. baeticum, an endangered species present in limited and vulnerable populations as a Tertiary relict in the southern Iberian Peninsula, was attained. Several cytokinin:IAA ratios and a range of zeatin concentrations were evaluated for their effect on shoot multiplication from apical shoots and nodal segments. The type of cytokinin and the origin of the explant were the most important factors affecting shoot multiplication. The highest shoot multiplication rate was obtained from single-nodal explants on medium supplemented with zeatin. Increasing zeatin concentration promotes shoot multiplication independently of explant type, although this effect tends to decrease with higher zeatin concentration. Shoot growth was higher in apical shoots and it was not stimulated by the presence of auxin. A number of experiments were conducted to identify suitable procedures for rooting of in vitro produced shoots. The best results in terms of in vitro rooting were obtained with Anderson's modified medium with macrosalts reduced to one-half, regardless of the auxin or its concentration in the medium. Although rooting frequency rose to 97% by basal immersion of shoots in auxin concentrated solution followed by in vitro culture on an auxin-free medium, the survival of the plants after 6 months of acclimatization was poor (50%). Best results (100% rooting and survival) were observed for ex vitro rooting. The micropropagated plants from this study were successfully reintroduced into their natural habitat (87% of survival after 8 months).

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