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American Journal of Botany

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Habitat conversion and fire suppression during the last 50 yr have greatly reduced and altered Florida scrub vegetation, resulting in threats to the persistence of its unique flora. As part of a larger conservation project, we investigated patterns of isozyme variation in three rare perennial scrub plants with overlapping ranges endemic to Florida rosemary scrub on the Lake Wales Ridge. All three species have low levels of genetic variation, comparable to or lower than those generally reported for rare plants with restricted geographic ranges. Liatris ohlingerae has more than twice the expected heterozygosity of the other two species, with little population differentiation. In contrast, Hypericum cumulicola has highly differentiated populations with little apparent interpopulation gene flow and heterozygote deficiencies indicative of inbreeding. Eryngium cuneifolium, the species with the narrowest range and fewest populations, has intermediate values for genetic parameters. Although the three species have narrow and overlapping geographic ranges and similar habitat specificity, we discuss how optimal conservation of each species differs.


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