Species with fragmented populations and low population size often display low within-population genetic diversity and strong among-population differentiation. Laurus nobilis L. (Lauraceae), common laurel, has a scattered distribution throughout the Mediterranean, with only few autochthonous populations. Our goal was to elucidate if this species has range-wide genetic structure and if planted material can be traced back to its origin. Genetic diversity was investigated using 4 polymorphic nuclear microsatellites (nSSR) transferred from two species of Lauraceae. Sixty-six laurel trees were selected from 7 widely separated populations within the Mediterranean distribution area of the species. A total of 34 alleles (9 alleles per locus on average) were found. Mean genetic diversity within-population (Hs), was 0.558. Genetic differentiation among populations (GST = 0.243) was high compared to that of other angiosperms. Laurus nobilis can be separated into two main gene pools, one from western (Tunisia, Algeria and France) and the other from eastern Mediterranean (Turkey). The Algerian, Tunisian and French populations presented a strong genetic similarity, compatible with the fact that North African laurel populations could be recently introduced from north-western Mediterranean stock.
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