Studies in reproductive biology and in vitro propagation as approaches to the conservation of Elliottia racemosa
Radcliffe, Carrie Amanda
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Elliottia racemosa, commonly called Georgia plume, is a threatened, woody plant endemic to the Coastal Plain region of Georgia. There are currently less than three dozen populations in the wild, seed set is low in most populations, and very little is known about its reproductive biology. A series of studies were conducted to elucidate any factors that could be contributing to the lack of sexual reproduction in natural populations. E. racemosa exhibits normal flower development, structure, and function. Pollen viability was low to moderate, and may be problematic. Gametophytic self-incompatibility may be contributing to the decline of E. racemosa due to its fragmented distribution, low levels of genetic diversity, and possible pollinator limitation. In addition, the effectiveness of a micropropagation protocol previously developed for this rare species was evaluated for a range of genotypes originating from multiple wild populations. In vitro propagation was successful for most genotypes tested. It is feasible to use this protocol to generate genetically diverse plant material for safeguarding, reintroduction, and augmentation of existing populations. Such efforts may be critical to the preservation of this species.