Gene flow between introduced and native Eucalyptus species: morphological analysis of tri-species and backcross hybrids involving E. nitens.
Morphometric analyses were conducted on second-generation tri-species and backcross hybrids in Eucalyptus. These hybrids were all produced using pollen from two E. nitens × cordata F1 hybrids and controlled pollination techniques. Tri-species hybrids were created with E. gunnii, E. ovata and E. viminalis as females, while backcrosses were produced with E. cordata. Multivariate analysis of seedling characteristics indicated that eighty percent of the backcross hybrids fell within the morphological range of E. cordata. All three cross combinations of the tri-species hybrids were biased away from E. nitens and towards their maternal parent and E. cordata. The inclusion of data for first-generation (F1) hybrids between the pure parental species in the current work showed the F1's to be easily distinguishable from pure species, compared to second-generation hybrids. The use of morphology for detecting second-generation hybridisation involving exotic plantation species and native eucalypt populations will therefore be unreliable, and identifies a need for preventing second-generation hybrids from establish in the wild. The current work, nevertheless, provides further demonstration of the effectiveness of morphological identification of F1 hybrids. The easy recognition of F1 hybrids will be useful in identifying sites and species at risk of exotic gene flow and enable the development of weeding programs that focus on removing exotic hybrids in the wild.