Few North American legumes are available for rangeland revegetation in the semiarid western United States. Western prairie clover (Dalea ornata [Douglas ex Hook.] Eaton & J. Wright) is a perennial legume with desirable forage characteristics and is distributed in the northern Great Basin, Snake River Basin, and southern Columbia Plateau. Understanding the genetic and ecotypic variability of this species is a prerequisite for developing populations suitable for revegetation purposes. To address this need, we established two common-garden plots of western prairie clover from 22 sites in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Significant variation was detected among the collections for all traits measured. Among the measured traits, flowering date was correlated with collection-site temperature and elevation. Population structure estimates from 474 amplified-fragment length polymorphism markers resulted in two distinct, genetically differentiated groups and a third admixed group, and flowering date played a significant role in discriminating those genetic-based groupings of collections. Positive correlations were observed between phenotypic and genetic distance matrices (r = 0.33, P = 0.005), phenotypic and geographic distance matrices (r = 0.35, P = 0.002), and genetic and geographic distance matrices (r = 0.31, P = 0.009). Based on these results, we recommend that two germplasm sources of western prairie clover be developed for use across the collection area, one from the Deschutes River region and the other encompassing Idaho, Washington, and eastern Oregon collection sites.
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