Festuca apennina × F. pratensis triploid hybrids exceed their parents in adaptation to broad‑environmental conditions

Boller, B., Schneider, M.K., Zhao, Ch., Bartoš, J., Majka, J., Kopecký, D.
Alpine Botany


Occurrence of Festuca apennina De Not. (4 × Fape), F. pratensis Huds. (2 × Fp) and the triploid, sterile hybrid F. apennina × F. pratensis (3 × Fape × Fp) was studied in 12 regions of the Swiss Alps. In total, 1908 plants were sampled in elevational strata scaled by 50 m between 850 and 2000 m a.s.l., and accompanying vegetation was assessed for each sampling point. The hybrid 3 × Fape × Fp was more frequent and more dominant than both parental species around 1400 m, and had a wider elevational distribution than 2 × Fp and 4 × Fape, which were confined to lower and higher elevation, respectively. As evidenced by their preferred accompanying species, 2 × Fp colonizes dryer, nutrient poorer environments than 4 × Fape which clearly prefers wet and nutrient rich environments. On the contrary, 3 × Fape × Fp thrives similarly well in both environments. The ability to reach an important biomass proportion in a sward, and the wide environmental adaptation of 3 × Fape × Fp is favored by its capacity to strongly expand by rhizomes. A single genotype of 3 × Fape × Fp was found to colonize an entire field of 2.3 ha with a maximum distance between clonal plants of 304 m. It is concluded that 3 × Fape × Fp is a potentially valuable pasture plant for use at higher altitudes, but it may reduce biodiversity via suppressing less competitive plant species.