University of Florida

In vitro and ex vitro genotypic characterization of the sea oat, Uniola paniculata.

In the southeastern United States, Uniola paniculata (sea oats) is the primary native dune grass used for beach and dune stabilization and restoration. Sea oats are commercially propagated in nurseries using field-collected seed. However, dwindling natural stands, concerns regarding limited genetic diversity, and the potential use of non-locally adapted ecotypes have resulted in severe restrictions on field harvesting and use of seed by native plant nurseries. Using genetic markers, we have determined that extensive genetic variation actually exists within and between natural sea oats populations on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. However, the ecological implications of these differences are unclear. Twenty-eight sea oats characterized genotypes, selected from Atlantic and Gulf coast populations, were established and clonally propagated in vitro. This genotypic variation was manifested in significant differences in shoot multiplication, root percentages, leaf morphology, and particularly ex vitro survival. These in vitro genotype variation characters are being investigated.

We are evaluating the field growth performance of these micropropagated sea oats genotypes following reciprocal transplanting at Gulf and Atlantic coast sites. This allows us the opportunity to determine whether there is any relationship between early in vitro and ex vitro growth characteristics and the performance of the same genotypes following outplanting under field conditions. Ultimately, these results could enable commercial growers to select diverse sea oats genotypes that possess ecologically valuable characteristics required for enhanced coastal dune stabilization and restoration in Florida beaches.

Specific Objectives

  1. Select and multiply genotypically distinct clones of Uniola paniculata in vitro from each collection site using micropropagation technology.
  2. Compare the survival, growth and reproductive responses of in vitro propagated sea oats genotypes following reciprocal transplantation at Atlantic and Gulf coast sites.
  3. Determine the feasibility of screening early in vitro and ex vitro growth of sea oats genotypes as a preliminary predictor of outplanting growth response.

Sea oats collecting sites across Florida
Sea oats collecting sites across Florida. Sea oats dune community (upper left).
Hurricane Andrew, 1992 (middle). Storm-induced dune erosion (upper right).

Sea oats population diversity
Sea oats population diversity and structure determined using RAPDs.


Sea oats
Sea oats micropropagation procedures: a) Stage II shoot culture, b) & c) Stage III rooted microcuttings, d) acclimatized plants in Styroblocks. Note the distinct sea oats genotypes evident in acclimatized plants.

Field evaluation of micropropagated sea oats genotypes
Field evaluation of micropropagated sea oats genotypes. Planting plot grid
layout (a). Planting (b). Newly planted plot (c). Basal shoot development (d).
Data collecting (e).

This project funded by Florida Sea Grant

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