Leptospermum scoparium is emerging as an economically important plant for the commercial production of mānuka honey and essential oils, both exhibiting unique antibacterial attributes. To support its domestication this is the first quantitative genetic study of variation for L. scoparium traits. It utilised plants from 200 open-pollinated families derived from 40 native populations, from across the species range in Tasmania, grown in a common garden field trial. The traits studied were survival, growth, and the flowering traits precocity, the timing of seasonal peak flowering, flowering duration, and flowering intensity. Significant genetic variation was evident at the population level for all traits studied and at the family level for three traits—growth, flowering precocity, and time to peak flowering. These three traits had moderate to high narrow-sense heritability estimates ranging from 0.27 to 0.69. For six of the traits studied, population differences were associated with climate attributes at the locations where seed was collected, suggesting adaptation to the local climate may have contributed to the observed population differentiation. Population level geographical trends suggest that genotypes to focus on for domestication originate from the eastern half of Tasmania for precociousness and the western half of Tasmania for earlier time to peak flowering and extended flowering duration.
Wellington CN, Vaillancourt RE, Potts BM, Worledge D, O’Grady AP. Genetic Variation in Flowering Traits of Tasmanian Leptospermum scoparium and Association with Provenance Home Site Climatic Factors. Plants. 2022; 11(8):1029. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11081029
Photo: Chris Wellington