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DNA markers identify hybrids between butternut (Juglans cinerea L.) and Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia Carr.)

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​Zhao, Peng; Woeste, Keith E.

Year Published



Tree Genetics & Genomes. 7(3): 511-533.


Butternut (Juglans cinerea L.) is a temperate deciduous hardwood native to the eastern USA and southern Canada valued for its nuts and wood. Butternut's survival is threatened by butternut canker, a disease caused by the exotic fungus Sirococcus clavigignentijuglandacearum Nair, Kostichka & Kuntz. Field observations indicate that trees commonly called buartnut (a hybrid of butternut and its close congener Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia × J. cinerea)) may be more resistant to butternut canker than is either parental species. Hybrids are difficult to distinguish morphologically from butternuts, and scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of range-wide genetic invasion by Japanese walnut via hybridization with butternut. We used pair-wise combinations of 40 random primers to screen bulked DNA pools of butternut, Japanese walnut, and buartnuts to identify genomic regions unique to Japanese walnut. We ultimately identified one ITS region marker, one chloroplast marker, one mitochondrial marker, and six nuclear markers. The utility of the markers for identifying hybrids was tested and verified using more than 190 genotypes. The markers will be used to identify buartnut hybrids based on the presence of introgressed genomic fragments inherited from Japanese walnut. We confirmed that hybrids have a complex genetic history and present features of the parental species in all possible combinations. These results will assist in the identification and testing of (non-hybrid) butternut for breeding and reintroduction of the species to its former habitats.


​Zhao, Peng; Woeste, Keith E. 2011. DNA markers identify hybrids between butternut (Juglans cinerea L.) and Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia Carr.). Tree Genetics & Genomes. 7(3): 511-533.

Last updated on: September 27, 2017