Previous chromosomal studies within Melampodium (Asteraceae, Heliantheae) of Mexico and Central America have documented chromosome numbers n = 9, 10, 11, 12, 18, 20, 23, 25 ± 1, 27, 30, and 33. Some species also have been shown to exhibit infra-and interpopulational polyploidy. The presence of cytotype mixtures is especially pronounced in the white-rayed complex, which occurs in the southwestern United States and adjacent Mexico. This group includes M. cinereum (n = 10 and 20), M. leucanthum (n = 10 and 20), and M. argophyllum (n = 30). Cytotype distribution has been newly analyzed in 415 plants from 152 populations and added to existing data from 185 plants from 113 populations, yielding information from a total of 600 individuals from 265 populations. Within M. cinereum and M. leucanthum are parapatric distributions of cytotypes, with tetraploids centered in the eastern and diploids in the western portions of their ranges. Tetraploids are most likely of autopolyploid origin, forming recurrently, with adaptations that allow colonization and establishment in new ecological regions. Contact zones are relatively narrow and only two triploid individuals have been detected. The tetraploid cytotypes probably extended eastward into central and southern Texas to the natural barriers at the edge of the Edward’s Plateau in M. leucanthum and the low sandy plains in M. cinereum. The hexaploid M. argophyllum is interpreted as a relict surviving in the low mountains of northern Mexico; it may be an allopolyploid of hybrid origin between ancestors of the evolutionary lines that eventually yielded M. cinereum and M. leucanthum.



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