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Sorbus in South West Britain

This work focuses on the evolutionary origins and reproductive ecology of the genus Sorbus (Whitebeams, Wild service tree and Rowans) within Devon and north Somerset. The genus Sorbus is a taxonomically complex group with over 40 species occurring in the UK. This complexity is driven by a process of hybridization resulting in polyploid taxa that reproduce largely asexually (apomixis). 

Polyploidy is known to be a major force in plant speciation and diversification and although much work has been done on the origins of polyploidy we are particularly interested in how polyploids behave in a natural system. Using Sorbus as a model we are investigating ecological processes that influence the formation and establishment of novel polyploidy species.


Many of these taxa exist as small populations and have been prioritised for conservation action. Knowledge of their breeding systems is essential to ensure that a balance between species conservation and the preservation of the processes that gave rise to this taxonomic diversity is maintained.

The work forms part of the PhD research of Ms Tracey Hamston and is supervised at Exeter by Dr James Cresswell and Dr Jamie Stevens.  The work is funded by the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust and carried out in conjunction with a number of other organisations, including: The National Botanic Garden of Wales; National Museum Cardiff; The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 

The University of Exeter, The Queen's Drive, Exeter, Devon, UK EX4 4QJ
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