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Nature. 2001 Oct 18;413(6857):700.

Plant genetics. Ancient wild olives in Mediterranean forests.

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Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionelle et Evolutive, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1919 Route de Mende, F-34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France.


Early domestication and extensive cultivation have meant that staple Mediterranean fruit crops such as olives, grapes and dates exist in wild-looking forms that are secondary derivatives produced by sexual reproduction among cultivated plants (cultivars), which were initially propagated vegetatively. By using genetic markers associated with characters that render plants unsuitable for domestication, we show here that genuinely wild olive trees, which cannot be distinguished morphologically from feral forms, still survive in a few Mediterranean forests. These wild stocks are genetically distinct and more variable than either the crop strains or their derived feral forms, a finding that has important implications for the conservation of these ancient lineages.

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