Landrein et al. explore the genetic and morphological consequences of natural selection and selective breeding in the genus Abelia (Caprifoliaceae). The genus comprises ornamental shrubs, endemic to China, that have been bred to create attractive and diverse cultivars.
Fingerprinting (AFLP) and DNA sequence data reveal that several wild taxa experienced hybridization and introgression. Some introgressed taxa are also disjunctly distributed and may be the result of expansion and reduction of distribution ranges. The genetic diversity, that arose as a result of natural gene flow between divergent taxa, is mirrored in the horticultural breeding programmes of Abelia, but within a smaller pool of taxa. Both diversifications result in the transfer of morphological characters between species, such as sepal number and inflorescence structure in Abelia ‘Saxon Gold’ and A. forrestii.