Chromosome numbers and DNA content in some species of Mecardonia (Gratiolae, Plantaginaceae)
Penstemon is the largest genus in North America with more than 270 reported species. However, little is known about its genome size. This information may be useful in developing hybrids for landscape use and for gaining insight into its current taxonomy. Using flow cytometry, we estimated the genome size of approximately 40% of the genus (115 accessions from 105 different species). Genome sizes for both reported and probable diploids range from P. dissectus 2C = 0.94 pg (1C = 462 Mbp) to P. pachyphyllus var. mucronatus 2C = 1.88 pg (1C = 919 Mbp), and the polyploids range from P. attenuatus var. attenuatus 2C = 2.35 pg (1C = 1148 Mbp) to P. digitalis 2C = 6.45 pg (1C = 3152 Mbp). Chromosome counts were done for ten previously published and four previously unreported Penstemon species (P. dissectus, P. navajoa, P. caespitosus var. desertipicti, and P. ramaleyi). These counts were compiled with all previously published chromosome data and compared with the flow cytometry results. Ploidy within this study ranged from diploid to dodecaploid. These data were compared and contrasted with the current taxonomy of Penstemon and previously published internal transcribed spacer and chloroplast DNA phylogenetic work. Based on genome size and previous studies, reassigning P. montanus to the subgenus Penstemon and P. personatus to the subgenus Dasanthera, would better reflect the phylogeny of the genus. Furthermore, our data concur with previous studies suggesting that the subgenus Habroanthus be included in the subgenus Penstemon. The DNA content of subgenus Penstemon exhibits high plasticity and spans a sixfold increase from the smallest to the largest genome (P. linarioides subsp. sileri and P. digitalis, respectively). Our study found flow cytometry to be useful in species identification and verification.