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Comparative analysis of genetic and morphological variation within the Platanthera hyperborea complex (Orchidaceae)

Cite this dataset

Wallace, Lisa; Wettewa, Eranga; Bailey, Nicholas (2020). Comparative analysis of genetic and morphological variation within the Platanthera hyperborea complex (Orchidaceae) [Dataset]. Dryad.


Species complexes present considerable problems for a working taxonomy due to the presence of intraspecific variation, hybridization, polyploidy, and phenotypic plasticity. Understanding evolutionary patterns using molecular markers can allow for a more thorough assessment of evolutionary lineages than traditional morphological markers. In this study, we evaluated genetic diversity and phylogenetic patterns among taxa of the Platanthera hyperborea (Orchidaceae) complex, which includes diploid (Platanthera aquilonis) and polyploid (Platanthera hyperborea, P. huronensis, P. convallariifolia) taxa spanning North America, Greenland, Iceland, and Asia. We found that three floral morphological characters overlap among the polyploid taxa, but the diploid species has smaller flowers. DNA sequence variation in a plastid (rpL16 intron) and a nuclear (ITS) marker indicated that at least three diploid species have contributed to the genomes of the polyploid taxa, suggesting all are of allopolyploid origin. Platanthera convallariifolia is most like P. dilatata and P. stricta, whereas P. huronensis and P. hyperborea appear to have originated from crosses of P. dilatata and P. aquilonis. Platanthera huronensis, which is found across North America, has multiple origins and reciprocal maternal parentage from the diploid species. By contrast, P. hyperborea, restricted to Greenland and Iceland, appears to have originated from a small founding population of hybrids in which P. dilatata was the maternal parent. Geographic structure was found among polyploid forms in North America. The area of Manitoba, Canada appears to be a contact zone among geographically diverse forms from eastern and western North America. Given the geographic and genetic variation found, we recommend continued recognition of four green-flowered species within this complex, but caution that there may be additional cryptic taxa within North America.


Sequences of ITS and rpl16 were collected by PCR and Sanger sequencing.  Morphological data was measured on herbarium specimens under a stereomicroscope.  Sequences were edited and aligned using Sequencher and Se-AL. 

Usage notes

Files are self-explanatory. Sequences are aligned. 


Old Dominion University