Microsatellite markers reveal unprecedented high frequencies of hybridization among Typha species in the midwestern us.
In North American wetlands, two cattail species -native Typha latifolia and exotic T. angustifolia- hybridize generating T. x glauca. Typha angustifolia and the hybrid spread invasively, negatively affecting wetlands. Due to high trait variability and hybridization, Typha species are difficult to identify morphologically. Building on previous work that relied on microsatellite markers to differentiate Typha species including hybrids, parental backcrosses, and advanced-generation hybrids in southern Canada and in the US upper Midwest and northeast, our goals were to 1 estimate relative frequencies of parental species in additional Midwestern cattail populations, and 2 quantify their hybridization. We also assessed level of agreement between morphological identification based on leaf width and gap between inflorescences and molecular identification. Using 6 microsatellites markers (4 used previously in other populations and 2 novel ones), we identified ~25% of the samples as native T. latifolia, while ~6% were exotic T. angustifolia. Furthermore, 19% of the samples were first-generation hybrids T. x glauca and 50% were advanced-generation hybrids, with backcrosses to native T. latifolia being almost twice as high as those to exotic T. angustifolia, rates that are much larger than previously reported. Agreement between morphological and molecular identification was lower than expected highlighting the fact that these morphological traits can be misleading when used alone in cattail identification. We caution that the seemingly asymmetric hybridization towards the native Typha latifolia could potentially lead to its extinction in the Midwest. Cattail management may thus require efforts to preserve the native cattail through seed banking and/or other approaches.