British flower study reveals surprise about plants' sex life

When wild flowering plants are sizing up others, they may often end up in a marriage between close relatives rather than neighbors, a new study has revealed.

The findings about the mating habits of Britain's native wildflowers represent the world's first genetic study of all hybrids—the offspring of two different species—from any native flora.

In the animal world, hybrids such as mules are usually infertile and represent an evolutionary dead end. But in plants, fertile hybrids are common and can form the raw fuel that drives evolution.

Interspecies hybrids can have a drastic evolutionary impact in the plant world—from outperforming their parents to form new species to genetically swamping rare species and driving them to extinction.


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