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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Morphological and Chemical Differences Among Populations of Hibiscus Tiliaceus Along an Elevational Gradient in Moorea, French Polynesia

  • Author(s): Bell, Thomas W.
  • et al.

Environmental variables change over elevational gradients and can isolate plant populations. Three varieties of Hibiscus tiliaceus L. exist on an elevational gradient in Moorea, French Polynesia. These variety’s morphological and chemical characteristics are associated with the differences between their environments. Leaf and flower morphological data were collected and analyzed and found significant differences in petal width and length, anther count, burgundy center color, and leaf width and length between the varieties, particularly between the coastal and mountain types. The increased rainfall and lower temperatures of the high mountains lowered net primary production for the mountain variety as compared to the coastal and mid-mountain varieties. The mid-mountain variety was found to have greater competition for light than the other varieties. These can be linked to the significant size differences in leaves and inflorescence. Chemical differences were analyzed using anti-microbial and anti-cancer bioscreens. Significant differences were found in the anti-microbial bioscreen between the mid-mountain variety, which showed little activity, and both the coastal and mountain varieties. The anti-cancer screen showed increased activity from the coastal and mountain leaves. Chemical differences are influenced by increased insolation and chemical protection from microbes in wet conditions. Anthropological uses of the varieties are linked to the greater size of the coastal type. The plant populations studied are associated with the differences in their environments.

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