Woody perennial angiosperms (i.e., hardwood trees) are polyphyletic in origin and occur in most angiosperm orders. Despite their independent origins, hardwoods have shared physiological, anatomical, and life history traits distinct from their herbaceous relatives. New high-throughput DNA sequencing platforms have provided access to numerous woody plant genomes beyond the early reference genomes of Populus and Eucalyptus, references that now include willow and oak, with pecan and chestnut soon to follow. Genomic studies within these diverse and undomesticated species have successfully linked genes to ecological, physiological, and developmental traits directly. Moreover, comparative genomic approaches are providing insights into speciation events while large-scale DNA resequencing of native collections is identifying population-level genetic diversity responsible for variation in key woody plant biology across and within species. Current research is focused on developing genomic prediction models for breeding, defining speciation and local adaptation, detecting and characterizing somatic mutations, revealing the mechanisms of gender determination and flowering, and application of systems biology approaches to model complex regulatory networks underlying quantitative traits. Emerging technologies such as single-molecule, long-read sequencing is being employed as additional woody plant species, and genotypes within species, are sequenced, thus enabling a comparative ("evo-devo") approach to understanding the unique biology of large woody plants. Resource availability, current genomic and genetic applications, new discoveries and predicted future developments are illustrated and discussed for poplar, eucalyptus, willow, oak, chestnut, and pecan.
Journal: Frontiers in plant science