Hibiscus moscheutos
Swamp rose mallow has been the focus of several research projects at SERC. It is widespread in eastern North America and occurs over a range of habitats from non-tidal freshwater wetlands to brackish tidal wetlands. It is an ideal research species because it is common, large, and easy to work with in the field or in controlled experimental conditions.

Swamp rose mallow has large flowers with floral parts that are easily manipulated, a feature that has been used to identify 'super males' which are plants whose pollen grows very fast and is able to fertilize more eggs than pollen of other plants. The super males should thus be able to spread their genes more efficiently if they have flowers that are more effective at attracting pollinators.

The common pollinators of Hibiscus are two species of bees and the plants will not produce seeds unless pollen is moved between plants by the bees. We have conducted other experiments to determine if petal size is an important factor in attracting the bees. More recently we have used Hibiscus to test hypotheses about how genes are moved between populations.

We have found that seeds of populations that are within close proximity to the tidal streams share more genes with each other than they do with populations that are located near the upland-wetland border, a place where it is more difficult for the floating seeds to reach or leave. We found, however, that some genes are exchanged between all populations within our study sites. This result demonstrates that even infrequent exchanges of genes occur often enough to maintain the genetic diversity of the species.

For more information on our research on Hibiscus and other wetland species, refer to our list of publications.

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