Once more unto the breach, dear friends: Resolving the origins and relationships of the Pellaea wrightiana hybrid complex.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


The taxonomic status of Wright's cliff brake fern, Pellaea wrightiana, has been in dispute ever since it was first described by Hooker in 1858. Previously published evidence suggested that this "taxon" may represent a polyploid complex rather than a single discrete species, a hypothesis tested here using a multifaceted analytical approach.


Data derived from cytogenetics, spore analyses, leaf morphometrics, enzyme electrophoresis, and phylogenetic analyses of plastid and nuclear DNA sequences are used to elucidate the origin, relationships, and taxonomic circumscription of P. wrightiana.


Plants traditionally assigned to this taxon represent three distinct polyploids. The most widespread, P. wrightiana, is a fertile allotetraploid that arose through hybridization between two divergent diploid species, P. truncata and P. ternifolia. Sterile triploids commonly identified as P. wrightiana, were found to be backcross hybrids between this fertile tetraploid and diploid P. truncata. Relatively common across Arizona and New Mexico, they are here assigned to P. ×wagneri hyb. nov. In addition, occasional sterile tetraploid plants assigned to P. wrightiana are shown here to be hybrids between the fertile allotetraploid and the tetraploid P. ternifolia subsp. arizonica. These tetraploid hybrids originated independently in two regions of parental sympatry (southern Arizona and west Texas) and are here assigned to P. ×gooddingii hyb. nov.


Weaving together data from a diversity of taxonomic approaches, we show that plants identified as P. wrightiana represent three morphologically distinguishable polyploids that have arisen through repeated hybridization events involving the divergent sexual taxa P. ternifolia and P. truncata.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Windham, MD; Huiet, L; Metzgar, JS; Ranker, TA; Yatskievych, G; Haufler, CH; Pryer, KM

Published Date

  • May 14, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 109 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 821 - 850

PubMed ID

  • 35568966

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-2197

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9122

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ajb2.1850


  • eng