250 years of hybridization between two biennial herb species without speciation.
Hybridization between plant species can generate novel morphological diversity and lead to speciation at homoploid or polyploid levels. Hybrids between biennial herbs Tragopogon pratensis and T. porrifolius have been studied in experimental and natural populations for over 250 years. Here we examine their current status in natural populations in southeast England. All hybrids found were diploid; they tended to grow taller and with more buds than their parental species; many showed partial fertility; a few showed evidence of backcrossing. However, we found no evidence to suggest that the hybrids are establishing as a new species, nor can we find literature documenting speciation of these hybrids elsewhere. This lack of speciation despite at least 250 years of hybridization contrasts with the fact that both parental species have formed new allopolyploid species through hybridization with another diploid, T. dubius. Understanding why hybrids often do not speciate, despite repeated opportunities, would enhance our understanding of both the evolutionary process and risk assessments of invasive species.