Aquilegia spp.



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Photo gallery 1

Photo gallery 2:  some Iberian taxa


Several taxa of the genus Aquilegia with largely non-overlapping distribution ranges coexist in the Iberian Peninsula. Specifically, five subspecies of Aquilegia vulgaris (vulgaris, dichroa, hispanica, nevadensis and paui) are recognized, and most of them are widely distributed over different mountain systems across the Iberian Peninsula. The four accepted subspecies of A. pyrenaica are narrow endemisms with very restricted distribution ranges, occurring only in the Pyrenees (A. p. pyrenaica) and Pre-Pyrenees mountain systems (A. p. guarensis), through the Cantabrian mountain range (A. p. discolor), and in the Sierras of Cazorla and El Pozo, in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula (A. p. cazorlensis). Finally, Aquilegia viscosa, a species represented by a single taxon, is endemic to southern France and north-eastern mountains of the Iberian Peninsula. (For further details on the distribution and taxonomic descriptions see Proyecto Anthos and Flora Ibérica, respectively.) Our studies are mainly focused on taxa of the Aquilegia vulgaris and Aquilegia pyrenaica groups.

Aquilegia plants consist of a slender rhizomatous stem with one to several basal rosettes, each with 3-6 pubescent ternate compound leaves. Mature plants can produce one to several paniculate inflorescences, each bearing 1-13 flowers in A. vulgaris group, or 1-8 (most commonly 1-4) in subspecies of A. pyrenaica. Flowers of both species range from pale blue to purple, are pendant and radially symmetrical, and have five petaloid sepals alternating with five petals elongated into nectar-producing spurs. Some taxa, like A. v. dichroa, present a white colour band at the distal extreme of both sepals and petals. Exceptionally, some rare, completely white flowered individuals can be found. More details on floral biology of some species can be found here.

Regarding A. v. vulgaris and A. p. cazorlensis, two species coexisting in the mountain systems of the southeast Iberian Peninsula, the levels of morphological variation in floral and vegetative characters and the relative importance of both types of traits in their differentiation show that vegetative traits seem to play an important role in their differentiation process. This findings seem to disagree with the currently established view of the radiation process in the genus Aquilegia in North America, where the differentiation of floral traits seems to have played a more important role (further information can be reached  here. Currently, differences between these two taxa in features of their pollination ecology, such as pollinator visitation rates, capacity for self-pollination and pollen limitation, are currently being studied (in prep.)

In addition, different genetic studies on Aquilegia are being undertaken following two main research lines. Firstly, we are trying to disentangle the taxonomic identities of Aquilegia taxa over all the Iberian Peninsula using AFLP markers. Secondly, we are starting to survey Aquilegia genome through genome scanning (following population genomics techniques) in order to find potentially selected loci, which can allow us to detect selection signatures underlying several processes of differentiation and local adaptation occurring among this group of taxa.

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