Penstemon is the largest genus in North America with more than 270 reported species. However, little is known about the genome size of this genus and how this information may be useful in selecting species in developing hybrids for landscape use. Using flow cytometry, we estimated the genome size of approximately 40% of the genus (117 specimens from 104 different species.) Genome sizes for the putative diploids ranged from 2C = 0.94 – 1.89 pg (1C = 462 – 924 Mbp) and the putative polyploids ranged from 2.57 – 6.54 pg (1C = 1,257 – 3,156 Mbp). Chromosome counts were compiled and compared with the flow cytometry results for the species within this publication. Ploidy within the genus ranged from diploid to dodecaploid. These data were compared and contrasted with the current taxonomy of Penstemon and previously published ITS and cpDNA phylogenetic work. Based on genome size, reassigning P. montanus, P. cardinalis, and P. uintahensis to the subgenus Penstemon and P. personatus to the subgenus Dasanthera, would better reflect the phylogeny of the genus. Both auto- and allo-polyploidization are plausible mechanisms for increasing ploidy within the genus. The diploid species within the subgenus Saccanthera contain on average 1.09 pg (1C = 532 Mbp); however, two species within this subgenus are tetraploid and octaploid. The DNA content of subgenus Penstemon exhibits high plasticity and spans a six-fold increase. Our study found flow cytometry to be useful in species identification and verification. This represents the first published work on the genome size of Penstemon. This research will aid in future DNA sequencing experiments and breeding programs.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



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Penstemon, flow cytometry, DNA content, polyploid, C value, phylogeny