Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Genetic Evidence that Lomatia tasmanica (Proteaceae) is an Ancient Clone

A. J. J. Lynch, R. W. Barnes, R. E. Vaillancourt and J. Cambecèdes

Australian Journal of Botany 46(1) 25 - 33
Published: 1998


Lomatia tasmanica W.M.Curtis is an endangered species with only one population. The population occurs over a distance of 1.2 km and consists of several hundred stems. Although it flowers occasionally, fruit production has never been observed, and it propagates vegetatively. The genetic diversity in L. tasmanica, and its relationship with the other species of this genus in Tasmania was investigated using allozyme analysis and chromosome counts. Sixteen isozyme loci were scored on 78 L. tasmanica plants collected from throughout the range of the species. No genetic diversity was found in L. tasmanica. Lomatia tinctoria possessed 22 (2n = 22) chromosomes, like other Lomatia species previously counted, while L. tasmanica had 33 to 29 chromosomes, which makes it an unstable triploid. The triploid nature of L. tasmanica would explain its lack of genetic diversity and its apparent sterility. This suggests that the entire species may be one genet, one of the largest plant clone ever found. Fossilised leaves identified as L. tasmanica by Jordan et al. (1991) and dated as at least 43 600 years old may indicate the minimum age of this genet. This clone maybe one the world’s oldest known living plant individual.

© CSIRO 1998

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