Genetic evidence for plural introduction pathways of the invasive weed Paterson's curse (Echium plantagineum L.) to southern Australia
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Paterson's curse (Echium plantagineum L. (Boraginaceae)), is an herbaceous annual native to Western Europe and northwest Africa. It has been recorded in Australia since the 1800's and is now a major weed in pastures and rangelands, but its introduction history is poorly understood. An understanding of its invasion pathway and subsequent genetic structure is critical to the successful introduction of biological control agents and for provision of informed decisions for plant biosecurity efforts. We sampled E. plantagineum in its native (Iberian Peninsula), non-native (UK) and invaded ranges (Australia and South Africa) and analysed three chloroplast gene regions. Considerable genetic diversity was found among E. plantagineum in Australia, suggesting a complex introduction history. Fourteen haplotypes were identified globally, 10 of which were co-present in Australia and South Africa, indicating South Africa as an important source population, likely through contamination of traded goods or livestock. Haplotype 4 was most abundant in Australia (43%), and in historical and contemporary UK populations (80%), but scarce elsewhere (< 17%), suggesting that ornamental and/or other introductions from genetically impoverished UK sources were also important. Collectively, genetic evidence and historical records indicate E. plantagineum in southern Australia exists as an admixture that is likely derived from introduced source populations in both the UK and South Africa.