Morphological and leaf anatomical variability of Crocus cf. heuffelianus Herb. (Iridaceae) populations from the different habitats of the Balkan Peninsula


Abstract: Crocus cf. heuffelianus Herb. belongs to the series Verni Mathew and presents one of the most complex and critical taxa within the whole genus Crocus L. Depending on different authors, C. cf. heuffelianus is sometimes split into different taxa (e.g., C. scepusiensis (Rehmer & Wol.) Borbás ex Kulcz., C. vittatus Schloss. & Vuk., nom. illeg.). In order to disentangle the complicated taxonomical status of this species and to determine the degree of its morphoanatomical variability in the different environmental conditions, a comparative investigation of plant morphology and leaf anatomy of seven populations from the Balkan Peninsula was carried out. Morphometric analysis included meristic, quantitative, and qualitative parameters. To examine the leaf anatomy, fresh cross sections were made by manual microtome and stained with safranin and alcian blue. Statistical analyses, such as principal component analysis and canonical discriminant analysis revealed significant differences between populations, indicating the presence of distinct groups correlating with their geographical distribution. The largest contribution to the differentiation of analyzed populations is made by the characters that are related to corms, perigone segments, leaves, and anthers, followed by the general outlook of cross sections, palisade and spongy parenchyma, abaxial epidermal cells, and vascular bundle features. These findings confirm that from the morphoanatomical point of view Balkanian C. cf. heuffelianus presents an aggregate of species.

Keywords: Crocus series Verni, differentiation, statistical analysis, leaf cross section

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