Outlier Stands of Quaking Aspen in the Davis Mountains of West Texas: Clone or Clones?


Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) is found from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in the northern United States and Canada, and at higher elevations in the western United States and northern Mexico. While P. tremuloides can reproduce sexually or asexually, it is primarily a clonal species in the intermountain west, reproducing vegetatively via root sprouts, yielding genetically identical stems or ramets. In west Texas, isolated, outlier stands occur in the Guadalupe, Davis, and Chisos Mountains at an elevation of approximately 2300 m. This study utilized seven microsatellites or simple sequence repeats (SSRs) to examine leaf samples from 10 widely separated stems in 10 isolated P. tremuloides individual stands within the Davis Mountains to determine the level of clonal and genetic diversity. We then examined differentiation among stands. Each stem sampled within a stand was genetically identical to all stems examined in that stand or was part of a clone. There were eight genetically identical clones from these ten stands, with three stands being genetically identical or part of the same clone. Many of the genotypes shared several of the same alleles and the remaining alleles were only a few base pairs apart. Some of these alleles have been previously identified in other western North American P. tremuloides stands. Microsatellites identified several triploid patterns consistent with possible aneuploidy, which is concurrent with previous studies.

Share and Cite:

Nunneley, J. , Van Auken, O. and Karges, J. (2014) Outlier Stands of Quaking Aspen in the Davis Mountains of West Texas: Clone or Clones?. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 5, 2298-2311. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2014.515244.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Little, E.L. (1971) Atlas of United States Tress. Vol. 1. Conifers and Important Hardwoods. USDA, Forest Service, Washington DC.
[2] Benson, L., Burdett, J., Lund, S., Kashgarian, M. and Mensing, S. (1997) Nearly Synchronous Climate Change in the Northern Hemisphere during the Last Glacial Termination. Nature Letters, 388, 263-265.
[3] Moore, G.W.K., Holdsworth, G. and Alverson, K. (2002) Climate Change in the North Pacific Region over the Past Three Centuries. Nature Letters, 420, 401-403.
[4] Jomelli, V., et al. (2011) Irregular Tropical Glacier Retreat over the Holocene Epoch Driven by Progressive Warming. Nature Letters, 474, 196-199.
[5] Powell, A.M. (1998) Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. University of Texas Press, Austin.
[6] Van Auken, O.W., Bush, J.K., Richter, F.A. and Karges, J. (2007) Structure of Isolated Populations of Populus tremuloides (Quaking Aspen) in the Davis Mountains of Far-West Texas. Natural Areas Journal, 27, 302-312.
[7] Ally, D., Ritland, K. and Otto, S.P. (2008) Can Clone Size Serve as a Proxy for Clone Age? An Exploration Using Microsatellite Divergence in Populus tremuloides. Molecular Ecology, 22, 4897-4911.
[8] Barnes, B.V. (1975) Phenotypic Variation of Trembling Aspen in Western North America. Forest Science, 21, 319-328.
[9] Kemperman, J.A. and Barnes, B.V. (1976) Clone Size in American Aspens. Canadian Journal of Botany, 54, 2603-2607.
[10] Cheliak, W.M. and Dancik, B. (1982) Genetic Diversity of Natural Populations of a Clone Forming Tree Populus tremuloides. Canadian Journal of Genetics and Cytology, 24, 611-616.
[11] Jelinski, D.E. and Cheliak, W.M. (1992) Genetic Diversity and Spatial Subdivision of Populus tremuloides Salicaceae in a Heterogeneous Landscape. American Journal of Botany, 79, 728-736.
[12] Hipkins, V.D. and Kitzmiller, J.H. (2004) Genetic Variation and Clonal Distribution of Quaking Aspen in the Central Sierra Nevada. Transactions of the Western Section of the Wildlife Society, 40, 32-44.
[13] DeWoody, J., Rickman, T.H., Jones, B.E. and Hipkins, V.D. (2009) Allozyme and Microsatellite Data Reveal Small Clone Size and High Genetic Diversity in Aspen in the Southern Cascade Mountains. Forest Ecology and Management, 258, 687-696.
[14] Mock, K.E., Rowe, C.A., Hooten, M.B., DeWoody, J. and Hipkins, V.D. (2008) Clonal Dynamics in Western North American Aspen (Populus tremuloides). Molecular Ecology, 17, 4827-4884.
[15] Cole, C.T. (2005) Allelic and Population Variation of Microsatellite Loci in Aspen (Populus tremuloides). New Phytologist, 167, 155-164.
[16] Wyman, J., Bruneau, A. and Tremblay, M.F. (2003) Microsatellite Analysis of Genetic Diversity in Four Populations of Populus tremuloides in Quebec. Canadian Journal of Botany, 81, 360-367.
[17] Namroud, M.C., Park, A., Tremblay, F. and Bergeron, Y. (2005) Clonal and Spatial Genetic Structures of Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.). Molecular Ecology, 14, 2969-2980. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02653.x
[18] Barnes, B.V. (1966) The Clonal Growth Habit of American Aspens. Ecology, 47, 439-447.
[19] Schier, G.A. (1973) Origin and Development of Aspen Root Suckers. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 3, 45-53.
[20] Camp, A., Poulos, H.M., Gatewood, R., Sirotnak, J. and Karges, J. (2006) Assessment of Top down and Bottom up Controls on Fire and Vegetation Abundance and Distribution Patterns in the Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands: A Hierarchical Approach. Unpublished Final Report to the Joint Fire Sciences Program, Project No. 03-3-3-13. Yale University, US National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy, 77 p.
[21] Fechner, G.H. and Barrows, J.S. (1976) Aspen Stands as Wildfire Fuel Breaks. Eisenhower Consortium Bulletin 4, USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins.
[22] Bevins, C.D. (1984) Historical Fire Occurrence in Aspen Stands of the Intermountain West. Cooperative Agreement 22-C-4-INT-31, Systems for Environmental Management, Missoula.
[23] Brown, J.K. and Simmerman, D.G. (1986) Appraisal of Fuels and Flammability in Western Aspen: A Prescribed Fire Guide. General Technical Report INT-205. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest Experiment Station, Fort Collins.
[24] Rothwell, R.L., Woodard, P.M. and Samran, S. (1991) The Effect of Soil Water on Aspen Litter Moisture Content. In: Andrews, P.L. and Potts, D.F., Eds., Proceedings of the 11th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Bethesda, 117-123.
[25] Brinkman, K.A. and Roe, E.I. (1975) Quaking Aspen: Silvics and Management in the Lake States. Agriculture Handbook 486, USDA, Forest Service, Washington DC.
[26] Van Auken, O.W. and McKinley, D.C. (2008) Structure and Composition of Juniperus Communities and Factors That Control Them. In: Van Auken, O.W., Ed., Western North American Juniperus Communities: A Dynamic Vegetation Type, Springer, New York, 19-47.
[27] Abrams, M.D. (2003) Where Has All the White Oak Gone? Bioscience, 53, 927-939.
[28] Romme, W.H., Turner, M.G., Tuskan, G.A. and Reed, R.A. (2005) Establishment, Persistence, and Growth of Aspen (Populus tremuloides) Seedlings in Yellowstone National Park. Ecology, 86, 404-418.
[29] Ellstrand, N.C. and Roose, M.L. (1987) Patterns of Genotypic Diversity in Clonal Plant Species. American Journal of Botany, 74, 123-131.
[30] DeWoody, J., Rowe, C.A., Hipkins, V.D. and Mock, K.E. (2008) “Pando” Lives: Molecular Genetic Evidence of a Giant Aspen Clone in Central Utah. Western North American Naturalist, 68, 493-497.
[31] Van Oosterhout, C., Van Heuven, M.K. and Brakefield, P.M. (2004) On the Neutrality of Molecular Genetic Markers: Pedigree Analysis of Genetic Variation in Fragmented Populations. Molecular Ecology, 13, 1024-1034.
[32] Butler, J.M. (2006) Genetics and Genomics of Core Short Tandem Repeat Loci Used in Human Identity Testing. Journal of Forensic Science, 51, 253-265.
[33] Milde-Kellers, A., Krawczak, M., Augustin, C., Boomgaarden-Brandes, K., Simeoni, E., Kaatsch, H.J., et al. (2008) An Illicit Love Affair during the Third Reich: Who Is My Grandfather? Journal of Forensic Science, 53, 377-379.
[34] Stepukhovich, A., Tsupryk, A., Kosobokova, O., Gavrilov, D.N., Gorbovitski, B., Gudkov, G., et al. (2008) Analysis of DNA Sequencing Systems Based on Capillary Electrophoresis. Technical Physics, 53, 763-775.
[35] Mock, K.E., Callahan, C.M., Islam-Faridi, M.N., Shaw, J.D., Rai, H.S., Sanderson, S.C., et al. (2012) Widespread Triploidy in Western North American Aspen (Populus tremuloides). PLoS ONE, 7, Article ID: e48406.
[36] Google Maps (2014) Mt. Livermore: Fort Davis, TX.
[37] Bing Maps (2014) Mt. Livermore: Fort Davis, TX.
[38] van der Schoot, J., Pospisková, M., Vosman, B. and Smulders, M.J.M. (2000) Development and Characterization of Microsatellite Markers in Black Poplar (Populus nigra L.). Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 101, 317-322.
[39] Peakall, R. and Smouse, P.E. (2005) GENALEX 6: Genetic Analysis in Excel. Population Genetic Software for Teaching and Research. Molecular Ecology Notes, 6, 288-295.
[40] Sherman, C.D.H. (2008) Mating System Variation in the Hermaphroditic Brooding Coral, Seriatopora hystrix. Heredity, 100, 296-303.
[41] Felsenstein, J. (2005) PHYLIP (Phylogeny Inference Package) Version 3.6. Distributed by the Author. University of Washington, Seattle.
[42] Nei, M. (1972) Genetic Distance between Populations. The American Naturalist, 106, 283-392.
[43] Imbrie, J. and Imbrie, K.P. (1979) Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery. Enslow, Short Hills.
[44] McClaran, M.P. and Van Devender, T.R. (1995) The Desert Grassland. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
[45] Delcourt, P.A., Delcourt, H.R. and Webb, T. (1983) Dynamic Plant Ecology: The Spectrum of Vegetation Change in Space and Time. Quatinary Science Review, 1, 153-175.
[46] Betancourt, J.L., Van Devender, T.R. and Martin, P.S. (1990) Packrat Middens: The Last 40,000 Years of Biotic Change. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
[47] Miller, R.F. and Wigand, P.E. (1994) Holocene Changes in Semiarid Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands: Response to Climate, Fire, and Human Activies in the US Great Basin. BioScience, 44, 465-474.
[48] Van Devender, T.R. (1995) Desert Grassland History: Changing Climates, Evolution, Biography, and Community Dynamics. In: McClaran, M.P. and Van Devender, T.R., Eds., The Desert Grassland, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 68-99.
[49] Horne, F. and Kahn, A. (1997) Phylogeny of North American Wild Rice, a Theory. Southwestern Naturalist, 42, 423-434.
[50] Robichaux, R.H. (1999) Ecology of the Sonoran Desert Plants and Plant Communities. University or Arizona Press, Tucson.
[51] Every, A.D. and Wiens, D. (1971) Triploidy in Utah Aspen. Madroño, 12, 138-147.
[52] Maini, J.S. (1972) Silvics and Ecology in Canada. In USDA, Forest Service General Technical Report NC-1, Washington DC, 67-73.
[53] Faust, M.E. (1936) Germination of Populus grandidentata and P. tremuloides with Particular Reference to Oxygen Consumption. Botanical Gazette, 97, 808-821.
[54] Kay, C.E. (1993) Aspen Seedlings in Recently Burned Areas of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Northwest Science, 67, 94-104.
[55] Romme, W.H., Turner, M.G., Gardner, R.H., Hargrove, W.W., Tuskan, G.A., Despain, D.G., et al. (1997) A Rare Episode of Sexual Reproduction in Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) Following the 1988 Yellowstone Fires. Natural Areas Journal, 17, 17-25.
[56] Mitton, J.B. and Grant, M.C. (1996) Genetic Variation and the Natural History of Quaking Aspen. BioScience, 46, 25-31.
[57] Tuskan, G.A., Francis, K.E., Russ, S.L., Romme, W.H. and Turner, M.G. (1996) RAPD Markers Reveal Diversity within and among Clonal and Seedling Stands of Aspen in Yellowstone National Park, USA. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 26, 2088-2098.
[58] DeWoody, J., Nason, J.D. and Hipkins, V.D. (2006) Mitigating Scoring Errors in Microsatellite Data from Wild Populations. Molecular Ecology Notes, 6, 651-957.
[59] Lund, S.T., Furnier, G.R. and Mohn, C.A. (1992) Isozyme Variation in Quaking Aspen in Minnesota. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 22, 521-524.
[60] Yeh, F.C., Chong, D.K.X. and Yang, R.C. (1995) RAPD Variation within and among Natural Populations of Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) from Alberta. Journal of Heredity, 86, 454-460.
[61] Stevens, M.T., Turner, M.G., Tuskan, G.A., Romme, W.H., Gunter, L.E. and Waller, D.M. (1999) Genetic Variation in Postfire Aspen Seedlings in Yellowstone National Park. Molecular Ecology, 8, 1769-1780.
[62] Tuskan, G.A., Difazio, S., Jansson, S., Bohlmann, J., Grigoriev, I., Hellsten, U., et al. (2006) The Genome of Black Cottonwood, Populus trichocarpa (Torr. & Gray). Science, 313, 1596-1604.
[63] Ramsey, J. and Schemske, D.W. (1998) Pathways, Mechanisms, and Rates of Polyploidy Formation in Flowering Plants. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 29, 467-501.
[64] Baker, F.S. (1925) Aspen in the Central Rocky Mountain Region. USDA Bulletin No. 1291. USDA, Washington DC.
[65] Bartos, D.L. and Campbell, R.B. (1998) Decline of Quaking Aspen in the Interior West—Examples from Utah. Rangelands, 20, 17-24.
[66] Rogers, P. (2002) Using Forest Health Monitoring to Assess Aspen Forest Cover Change in the Southern Rockies Ecoregion. Forest Ecology and Management, 155, 223-236.
[67] Frey, B.R., Lieffers, V.J., Hogg, E.H. and Landhäusser, S.M. (2004) Predicting Landscape Patterns of Aspen Dieback: Mechanisms and Knowledge Gaps. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 34, 1379-1390.
[68] Hogg, E.H., Brandt, J.P. and Michaellian, M. (2008) Impacts of a Regional Drought on the Productivity, Dieback, and Biomass of Western Canadian Aspen Forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 38, 1373-1384.
[69] Worrall, J.J., Egelanda, L., Eagera, T., Maska, R.A., Johnsonb, E.W., Kemp, P.A., et al. (2008) Rapid Mortality of Populus tremuloides in Southwestern Colorado, USA. Forest Ecology and Management, 255, 686-696.
[70] Worrall, J.J., Marchetti, S.B., Egeland, L., Mask, R.A., Eager, T. and Howell, B. (2010) Effects and Etiology of Sudden Aspen Decline in Southwestern Colorado, USA. Forest Ecology and Management, 260, 638-648.
[71] Kulakowski, D., Matthews, C., Jarvis, D. and Veblen, T.T. (2013) Compounded Disturbances in Sub-Alpine Forests in Western Colorado Favor Future Dominance by Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). Journal of Vegetation Science, 24, 168-176.
[72] Kashian, D.M., Romme, W.H. and Regan, C.M. (2007) Reconciling Divergent Interpretations of Quaking Aspen Decline on the Northern Colorado Front Range. Ecological Applications, 17, 1296-1311.
[73] Smith, T.M. and Smith, R.L. (2012) Elements of Ecology. 8th Edition, Pearson Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco.
[74] Mueggler, W.F. (1985) Forage. In: DeByle, N.V. and Winokur, R.P., Eds., Aspen: Ecology and Management in the Western United States. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, 129-134.
[75] Mueggler, W.F. (1989) Age Distribution and Reproduction of Intermountain Aspen Stands. Western Journal of Applied Forestry, 4, 41-45.

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.