Origin and genetic structure of feral rye in the western United States

Jutta C. Burger, Sky Lee, Norman C. Ellstrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Feral rye (Secale cereale) is a serious, introduced weed of dry land agricultural regions of the western United States. It closely resembles cultivated cereal rye (Secale cereale cereale L.) with the exception of having a shattering seed head. Feral rye may have originated from hybridization of cultivated rye with mountain rye, Secale strictum, as past studies of northern Californian populations suggest, or directly from volunteer cultivated rye. We characterized the genetic structure of feral rye populations across a broad geographical range and reexamined evidence for hybrid origin versus direct evolution from domesticated cultivars. Eighteen feral populations were examined from three climatically distinct regions in the western United States. Seven cultivars, four mountain rye accessions, and one wild annual relative (Secale cereale ancestrale) were included in our analysis as possible progenitors of feral rye. Individual plants were scored for 14 allozyme and three microsatellite loci. Estimates of genetic diversity in feral populations were relatively high compared to those of the possible progenitors, suggesting that the weed had not undergone a genetic bottleneck. Weed populations had no geographical structure at either a broad or a local scale, suggesting idiosyncratic colonization and gene-flow histories at each site. Feral rye populations were no more closely related to mountain rye than cultivars were. They were, however, weakly clustered as a distinct lineage relative to cultivars. Our results do not support an interspecific hybrid origin for feral rye, but do suggest that the sampled populations of feral rye share a common ancestry that may explain its weedy nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2527-2539
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Evolution of invasiveness
  • Hybridization
  • Introgression
  • Secale cereale
  • Secale strictum
  • Weed evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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