Interesting morphological traits in tree organs are essential for selecting the best plant germplasm. Variation in morphometric traits of leaf, fruit and seed of multipurpose tree Diospyros mespiliformis were studied in two climatic zones in Benin using 735 trees from 4 major habitats (provenances) in each climatic zone. Morphological trait measurements were combined with architectural parameters and analyzed using two-way ANOVA, principal components analysis and hierarchical clustering. Results indicated that significant differences were observed between leaves, fruits and seed morphological traits within climatic zones and habitats in terms of dimensions across the study area. Compared to the other three habitats (low dimensions), leaves from woodland showed large dimensions (µL_leaf=130 mm, µl_leaf=50 mm). Soudano Guinean zone recorded the highest fruits morphological traits values (µd_fruit= 36 mm µl_fruit=30 mm) while Soudanian zone had the lowest (µd_fruit= 12 mm, µl_fruit=8 mm). More seeds per fruit were recorded in woodlands and parklands. Out of these, hierarchical analysis grouped ebony morphotypes into four clusters. There was no significant correlation between the number of seeds per fruits and other fruit traits. However, significant and strong positive correlations were found between morphometric characters, bearing and architectural parameters (R = 0.96). The provenance significantly affected variations in organ-related traits. Correlation relationships suggested morphotypes for breeding improvement. Interesting and desired characteristics delineating individuals and populations can guide future selection of targeted ebony trees with the aim of improving high-value species in agroforestry domestication program.
Key words: Diversity, domestication, environmental factors, morphological descriptors, multivariate analysis.
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