Morphological in situ Characterization of Mortiño (Vaccinium floribundum Kunth) in the Andes of Ecuador

Wilson Vásquez-Castillo, Kerly Ayala, Marcelo Almeida, Alejandro F. Barrientos-Priego, Pablo Moncayo-Moncayo, Álvaro Monteros-Altamirano


Vaccinium is one of the largest in the Ericaceae family, distributed worldwide. Mortiño (Vaccinium floribundum Kunth) is an Andean fruit threatened by agriculture, livestock, and forestry activities, causing genetic erosion. The importance of the mortiño fruit is also because of its nutritional composition due to its high content of functional compounds in comparison to other Andean fruits. The characterization of a species allows scientists to estimate the population’s genome variability. The morphological characterization reveals important distinctive morphological features, some of which will promote the species’ commercial value. This study aims to apply morphological and agronomic descriptors to mortiño in situ in the paramos of Ecuador. Three locations in three different provinces of the Ecuadorian highlands were selected: San Pablo in Imbabura, Atacazo in Pichincha, and Quilotoa in Cotopaxi, all located between 3200 and 4050 masl. Forty-two descriptors were registered in 15 mortiño populations, of which 16 were quantitative and 26 qualitative. The results demonstrated the existence of two morphological groups of mortiño, the first formed by populations in Imbabura and the second by those in Pichincha and Cotopaxi. The discriminating descriptors of the mortiño plants in the three locations were: the altitude of the site, total soluble solids, and acidity of the fruit, plant height, growth habit, and flower characteristics. The floral formula of the mortiño is K (5); C (5); A (7); G (3). To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first comprehensive morphological description of Andean Vacccinium floribundum.


Andean fruit; descriptors; plant growth; plant variability.

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