Introduction: The forests of Abies religiosa (Kunth) Schltdl. & Cham. in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) serve as a refuge for the monarch butterfly.
Objective: To determine the viability of growing naturally regenerated A. religiosa seedlings in a nursery and the genetic variation associated with the altitudinal gradient among populations.
Materials and methods: Recently naturally germinated seedlings were collected in an altitudinal transect (2 960 to 3 450 m) that covered six populations of the MBBR. The plants grew for 18 months in a nursery at 3 000 m.
Results and discussion: The average survival of A. religiosa was 75 %. The plants showed significant differences in survival (P < 0.0001), height (P = 0.0430) and basal diameter (P < 0.0001) among provenances; the populations of the altitudinal extremes had the highest values.
Conclusion: Transplanting plants that naturally germinated in the forest into containers for nursery growth is feasible. The altitudinal pattern was atypical, since the populations of the altitudinal extremes had the best growth.