Polyploidy in Gymnosperms: Revisited

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Abstract

There are only a few natural polyploids in gymnosperms. These have been reported in Ephera spp. (Gnetales), and Juniperus chinensis ‘Pfitzeriana’ (2n = 4x = 44), Fitzroya cupressoides (2n = 4x = 44), and the only hexaploid conifer Sequoia sempervirens (2n = 6x = 66) (Coniferales). Sporadic polyploids and aneuploids occur at a very low frequency in nurseries in conifers, but most of them show growth abnormalities, remain dwarf, and may not reach maturity. One exception is an autotetraploid tree of Larix decidua (2n = 4x = 48) that has survived in a private estate in Denmark. Colchicine-induced polyploids (colchiploids) have been produced in a several genera of conifers, including, Pinus, Picea, and Larix. These colchiploids (Co) were hybridized to untreated diploids to produce C1 and C2 generations to investigate their chromosome behavior. The colchiploids showed a wide range of chromosome variability, ranging from diploids, triploids, and tetraploids, and many were mixoploids. The colchiploids also show growth retardation, remain dwarf, and their future potential applications in forestry remains uncertain. However, genetic variability in the colchiploids still offers prospects for isolating genetically stable new genotypes. Even though polyploidy is rare in extant conifers, is it possible that ancient polyploidy or paleopolyploidy, that is prevalent in angiosperms, has also played a role in the evolution of conifers. In this paper we shall review the current status of polyploidy in gymnosperms.

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