The ecological side of an ethnobotanical coin: Unconscious selection in the “fruit of the gods”, the American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana, Ebenaceae)
A growing body of literature now documents how ancient human management of the landscape echoes through to extant environments in eastern North America. Plant domestication is a major theme in the study of human–nature interactions. Long-term ecological impacts of human selection may last for centuries after management ends, yet little work has focused on legacies in the evolution of historically used trees. Ecological data will be valuable in teasing apart myriad variables that confound questions of land-use legacies. We discuss the potential for legacies of ancient human selection and present a preliminary case study for the approach of integrating ecological and historical data for Diospyros virginiana, the American persimmon. Herbarium samples of D. virginiana (28 male and 40 female) from across the species range provided specimen localities for edaphic analysis. Soil and environmental data were analyzed using nonparametric ordination, Wilcoxon summed rank test, and permutational MANOVA.
Edaphic data demonstrated substantial variation among sites, but revealed no significant differences between sexes. Permutational MANOVA showed no difference in environmental preferences for the tested variables between male and female trees ( R 2 < 0.01, P = 0.8). Extending our understanding of landscape history to the long-term impacts of artificial selection at the species or population level would be valuable in both theoretical and applied botanical research. Multidisciplinary approaches integrating ecological data will be essential for investigation of the evolutionary implications of historical human selection in economic species and the potential for adaptive flexibility in reproductive systems of long-lived perennials.