Biodiv Sci ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (4): 384-395.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2017254

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Cultivation history of Camellia oleifera and genetic resources in the Yangtze River Basin

Shengyuan Qin1, Jun Rong1,2,*(), Wenju Zhang3, Jiakuan Chen1,2,3   

  1. 1 Center for Watershed Ecology, Institute of Life Science, Nanchang University and School of Life Sciences, Nanchang University, Nanchang 330031
    2 Key Laboratory of Poyang Lake Environment and Resource Utilization, Ministry of Education, Nanchang University, Nanchang 330031
    3 Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Fudan University, Shanghai 200438
  • Received:2017-09-20 Accepted:2017-12-20 Online:2018-04-20 Published:2018-09-11
  • Contact: Rong Jun
  • About author:# Co-first authors


Camellia oleifera is the dominant woody oil crop in China. According to current records, the cultivation history of C. oleifera as an oil crop may be less than 1,000 years, and the Yangtze River Basin may be one of the earliest cultivation areas. Wild relatives of C. oleifera are valuable genetic resources for breeding. Camellia oleifera belongs to Sect. Oleifera of the genus Camellia in the family Theaceae. Wild relatives of C. oleifera may include species in Sect. Oleifera and Sect. Paracamellia. However, the division of Sect. Oleifera and Sect. Paracamellia is still under debate, and the phylogenetic relationships among species remain unresolved. Sect. Oleifera and Sect. Paracamellia have the highest frequency of polyploids in the genus Camellia, and the same species may have various ploidies, which may be promoted by artificial selection and interspecies hybridization. The Yangtze River Basin is the main production area of C. oleifera, and the main distribution area of wild C. oleifera, thus containing rich genetic resources of wild C. oleifera. This study analyzed the distribution of species in Sect. Oleifera and Sect. Paracamellia of the genus Camellia and compared the results with the potential distribution areas of wild C. oleifera. Results show that drainage divides between the Yangtze River Basin and Pearl River Basin (Nanling Mountain, Miaoling Mountain, and adjacent regions) have the highest diversity of species in Sect. Oleifera and Sect. Paracamellia. Meanwhile, these regions are also potential highly suitable growing regions for wild C. oleifera, where there may be potential interspecies hybrid zones between C. oleifera and its wild relative species. Species diversity decreases from the south to the north, likely representing the dispersal direction from south to north. The potential interspecies hybrid zones between C. oleifera and its wild relative species may contain rich genetic diversity and provide natural breeding stations for selective breeding. These regions should be priority areas for research and conservation in order to explore and utilize genetic resources with important economic values.

Key words: Camellia oleifera, cultivation history, genetic diversity, genetic resource, geographic distribution, Yangtze River Basin