The study of natural plant populations has provided some of the strongest and most convincing cases of the operation of natural selection currently known, partly because of amenability to reciprocal transplant experiments, common garden work, and long-term in situ manipulation. Genetic differentiation among plant populations over small scales (a few cm to a few hundred cm) has been documented and is reviewed here, in herbaceous annuals and perennials, woody perennials, aquatics, terrestrials, narrow endemics, and widely distributed species. Character differentiation has been documented for most important features of plant structure and function. Examples are known for seed characters, leaf traits, phenology, physiological and biochemical activities, heavy metal tolerance, herbicide resistance, parasite resistance, competitive ability, organellar characters, breeding systems, and life history. Among the forces that have shaped these patterns of differentiation are toxic soils, fertilizers, mowing and grazing, soil moisture, temperature, light intensity, pollinating vectors, parasitism, gene flow, and natural dynamics. The breadth and depth of the evidence reviewed here strongly support the idea that natural selection is the principal force shaping genetic architecture in natural plant populations; that view needs to be more widely appreciated than it is at present.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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