The myrtle ( Myrtus communis
) is a common shrub widespread in the Mediterranean Basin. Its fruit and leaves exhibit antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties, and are used for their content of essential oils and for their medicinal properties, but most commonly as an ingredient in locally made liquor. The uncontrolled exploitation of natural stands has reduced both the species\' geographical coverage and the size of individual populations. The selection of genotypes for controlled cultivation requires a characterization of the genetic diversity present both within and between populations.
Genotypic variation was evaluated using ISSR profiling and genetic diversity characterized using standard population genetics approaches. Two major clusters were identified: one capturing all the candidate cultivars selected from various Sardinian localities, and the other wild individuals collected from Asinara, Corsica and Surigheddu. A moderate level of gene flow between the Sardinian and Corsican populations was identified. Discriminant analysis of principal components revealed a level of separation among the wild populations, confirming the population structure identified by the clustering methods.
The wild accessions were well differentiated from the candidate cultivars. The level of genetic variability was high. The genetic data were compatible with the notion that myrtle has a mixed pollination system, including both out-pollination by insects and self-pollination. The candidate cultivars are suggested to represent an appropriate basis for directed breeding.