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Am J Bot. 2002 Jun;89(6):929-39. doi: 10.3732/ajb.89.6.929.

Tackling speciose genera: species composition and phylogenetic position of Senecio sect. Jacobaea (Asteraceae) based onplastid and nrDNA sequences.

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  • 1Nationaal Herbarium Nederland, Universiteit Leiden, P.O. Box 9514, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.


The molecular phylogeny of Senecio sect. Jacobaea (Asteraceae; Senecioneae) was studied to clarify species composition and interspecific relationships of Senecio sect. Jacobaea. This information is necessary for studies seeking explanations of the evolutionary success of Senecio, in terms of high species numbers and the evolution of chemical defense mechanisms. Parsimony analyses with 60 species of the tribe Senecioneae, representing 23 genera and 11 sections of Senecio, based on DNA sequence data of the plastid genome (the trnT-L intergenic spacer, the trnL intron, and two parts of the trnK intron, flanking both sides of the matK gene) and nuclear genome (ITS1, 5.8S, and ITS2 gene and spacers) show that sect. Jacobaea is a strongly supported monophyletic group. Fifteen species have been identified as members of section Jacobaea, including three species that have been consistently ascribed to this section in taxonomic literature and 12 species that were either placed in other sections of Senecio or not exclusively ascribed to sect. Jacobaea. This section was traditionally circumscribed as a group of European, biennial, or perennial herbs with pinnately incised leaves, but the results of this study show that one annual species, a species from northeastern Asia, and a species growing in the Himalayas are members of sect. Jacobaea as well. Furthermore, not all species in the section have pinnately incised leaves. The genera Emilia, Packera, and Pseudogynoxys form the sister clade of sect. Jacobaea, but this relationship lacks strong bootstrap support and thus remains provisional.

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