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Am J Bot. 2004 Nov;91(11):1930-5. doi: 10.3732/ajb.91.11.1930.

Morphological variation in Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae): geographic, environmental, and taxonomic correlates.

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  • 1Harvard University, Harvard Forest, P.O. Box 68, Petersham, Massachusetts 01366 USA;


Geographic variation in morphology reflects phenotypic responses to environmental gradients and evolutionary history of populations and species and may indicate local or regional changes in environmental conditions. The pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) illustrates these principles. At local scales, its morphology reflects nutrient availability. At points along its broad geographic range (from Florida to northern Canada) morphology has been used to distinguish subspecies and varieties, but there has been no detailed study of the continuum of morphological variation across this entire range. Patterns of morphological variation in S. purpurea were characterized as a function of climatic and environmental conditions at 39 sites spanning its range. Differences in pitcher size and shape were strongly correlated with temperature, annual precipitation, and availability of ammonium and calcium in peat pore water. Pitcher shape (lip width, mouth diameter, and pitcher width) in Florida panhandle populations differed significantly from pitcher shape of all other populations, even after accounting for environmental correlations. In contrast, the northern and southern subspecies of S. purpurea (the latter exclusive of the Florida panhandle populations) cannot be distinguished based on these morphological measurements alone. These results support a recent proposal that identifies the Florida populations as a distinct species, Sarracenia rosea.

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