Oonopsis foliosa var. foliosa and var. monocephala are endemic to short-grass steppe of southeastern Colorado and until recently were considered geographically disjunct. The only known qualitative feature separating these 2 varieties is floral head type; var. foliosa has radiate heads, whereas var. monocephala beads are discoid. Sympatry between these varieties is restricted to a small area in which a range of parental types and intermediate head morphologies is observed. We used distribution mapping, morphometric analyses, chromosome cytology, and pollen stainability to characterize the sympatric zone. Morphometries confirms that the only discrete difference between var. foliosa and var. monocephala is radiate versus discoid heads, respectively. The enter florets of putative hybrid individuals ranged from conspicuously elongated yet radially symmetric disc-floret corollas, to elongated radially asymmetric bilabiate- or deeply cleft corollas, to stunted ray florets with appendages remnant of corolla lobes. Chromosome cytology of pollen mother cells from both putative parental varieties and a series of intermediate morphological types collected at the sympatric zone reveal evidence of translocation heterozygosity. Pollen stainability shows no significant differences in viability between the parental varieties and putative hybrids. The restricted distribution of putative hybrids to a narrow zone of sympatry between the parental types and the presence of meiotic chromosome-pairing anomalies in these intermediate plants are consistent with a hybrid origin. The high stainability of putative-hybrid pollen adds to a growing body of evidence that hybrids are not universally unfit.
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