January 26, 2019

Our study on the origin of an enigmatic, disjunct population of Rhododendron ferrugineum L. from the Karkonosze Mts. has been published in J. Biogeogr.

Rhododendron ferrugineum (Ericaceae) is a small, evergreen shrub with spectacular pink flowers, naturally occurring in the alpine and subalpine parts of the Alps, Pyrenees and Apennines. The character of the species' population in the Karkonosze Mts. (the Sudetes range), about 350 km north of the acknowledged range, was so far uncertain and some researchers suggested that it could have been introduced in the 19th century from the Alpine populations. Our study shows that the population from the Karkonosze Mts. has a high genetic variability and represents an independent evolutionary lineage, with closest links to the Western Alps. It is therefore a glacial relict, most likely the remnant of the larger Central European Pleistocene population of the species, which persisted in a topographically controlled stable microrefugium. This case study nicely shows the importance of sampling the marginal, isolated plant populations for phylogeographic studies and the importance of such populations for conservation of genetic pool of the species.

The project was funded by the Forest Fund (Fundusz Leśny) through the Karkonosze National Park, Poland.


Suchan T, Malicki M, Ronikier M, 2019. Relict populations and Central European glacial refugia: the case of Rhododendron ferrugineum (Ericaceae). Journal of Biogeography 46(2): 392–404. DOI