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Genetic distinctiveness highlights the conservation value of a sicilian manna ash germplasm collection assigned to fraxinus angustifolia (Oleaceae)

  • Autori: Abbate L.; Mercati F.; Di Noto G.; Heuertz M.; Carimi F.; Del Bosco S.F.; Schicchi R.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2020
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista
  • OA Link:


The cosmopolitan genus Fraxinus comprises about 40 species occupying several habitats in the Northern Hemisphere. With some species hybridizing and sharing genetic variants, questions remain on the species assignment of germplasm within the genus Fraxinus despite numerous species-specific assessments. A multidisciplinary approach was employed to provide a definitive insight into the genetics of an endangered Fraxinus “manna ash” collection, located in a rich plant biodiversity hotspot of the Madonie Mountains (Sicily). Although the collection size was small, genetic diversity, assessed by chloroplast (cpSSR) and nuclear (nSSR) microsatellites (SSR—Simple Sequence Repeats), allowed identifying three different chloroplast haplotypes, with one (H5) dominant, and several polymorphic loci, able to discriminate most of the local accessions studied. Molecular data were linked to cytofluorimetric and phenotypic evaluations and, contrary to popular belief that manna ash is Fraxinus ornus L., the germplasm currently used for manna production belongs to Fraxinus angustifolia Vahl. Interestingly, joint analysis of our genetic panel with a large European dataset of Fraxinus spp. suggested the presence of a possible glacial refuge in Sicily, confirming its importance as biodiversity source. Our results will be helpful for the design of long-term conservation programs for genetic resources, such as in situ and ex situ conservation, seed collection and tree reintroduction.