Seeds and bark of Garcinia kola Heckel (Clusiaceae) are popular products in West and Central Africa. Despite the tree’s economic and cultural importance, little is known about its phenotypic and genotypic variation. This study characterised the morphological and genetic diversity of G. kola in South Cameroon, searching for traits and populations that might be used for domestication. Morphological assessment and amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers were applied to characterise diversity among geographic populations from Central and South regions, and between managed and wild trees. AFLP-SURV and analysis of molecular variance results indicated that a major part of genetic diversity is harboured within populations rather than between them. Bayesian analysis, principal component analysis and t-SNE identified three clusters where Ebolowa emerged as the transition population combining features from both regions. Trees from the South demonstrated a higher incidence of domestication-related traits, showing higher genetic diversity compared to the Central region. This suggests that individuals from the South might be more suitable for selection as “elite trees” in future breeding strategies for the species. No significant differences in phenotype and genotype were revealed between wild and managed populations, suggesting G. kola is still in the early stages of its domestication process.
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