Biodiversity and ecogeography of wild Lactuca spp. in some European countries

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Staff members of the Department of Botany of Palacký University in Olomouc and Gene Bank Department – Workplace Olomouc, Research Institute of Crop Production in Prague, Czech Republic, conducted an expedition in seven European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland) in August/September 1999 to collect wild Lactuca spp. germplasm and study its geographic distribution, ecology and biodiversity. During the mission, more than 600 locations were visited resulting in the collection of 602 seed samples (accessions) of wild Lactuca species and 13 seed samples of related genera (Chondrilla and Mycelis). Lactuca serriola f. serriola, L. serriola f. integrifolia, L. saligna and L. viminea subsp. chondrilliflora were prevalent in southern Europe (Italy, France), however, only L. serriola was common in central and western Europe (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland). The greatest diversity of Lactuca species was found in France, where also the most seed samples (165) were collected. The most characteristic habitats with a high density of Lactuca spp. populations were observed along roads and highways, grassy ditches, ruderal communities, and dust-heaps. Natural infections by powdery mildew (Erysiphe cichoracearum) and downy mildew (Bremia lactucae) on some wild Lactuca spp. were observed. Recent observations concerning the geographic distribution, population structure, habitats, and natural occurrence of diseases of Lactuca spp. are discussed. This assemblage of genetic resources of Lactuca spp. can serve as the basis of future studies of species diversification, spatial population structure, plant microevolution, domestication processes, and genetic variability of host-parasite interactions.

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