Characterization of in situ coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) genotypes using morphological descriptors is of primary importance for genetic resources. Variations in five traits were recorded on 48 selected coconut palms located at 0 to 177 m above sea level in the Coastal Lowlands of Kenya. The objective of our study was to characterize coconut palms in the coastal Kenya using morphological markers. Data was recorded on palms that included tall, dwarf and hybrid varieties. Data was analyzed using Genstat Ver 14.2 software. Phylogenetic tree construction, using the neighbour joining method, revealed that the germplasm fell into three major clusters comprising of 2, 25 and 21 genotypes, respectively. Principal component analysis (PCA) showed that the first component (CP1) accounted for 65.54% of the total variation and was associated with the number of green leaves. The second component (PC2) explained 19.71% of the total variation and was associated with stem height. The results from this study indicate that morphological variation for coconut germplasm at the Kenyan coast exists for both qualitative and quantitative characters. Coconut palms did not cluster on the basis of their origin based on the counties grown.
Key words: Morphological characterization, Cocos nucifera L., variation, genetic resources, genetic diversity, cluster analysis.
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