Rampant polyphyly in the Arracacia clade (Apiaceae) and an assessment of the phylogenetic utility of 20 noncoding plastid loci

Clark A. Danderson, Stephen R. Downie, Michael Hermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Arracacia clade (Apiaceae, Apioideae) is a heterogeneous assemblage of 12 genera, comprising 111 known species distributed in high montane temperate and sub-alpine habitats of meso- and South America. Previous studies have indicated that the genera Arracacia, Coulterophytum, and Prionosciadium are polyphyletic, but for the most part relationships among the members of the clade are largely unknown. Initially, cladistic analyses of nrDNA ITS sequences were carried out on 212 accessions (122 taxa), representing 92 species of the Arracacia clade and outgroups from the closely-related páramo genera Cotopaxia, Niphogeton, and Perissocoeleum and members of the Perennial Endemic North American clade and its allies. Using the ITS results to inform sampling of a small subset of taxa, a pilot study examining the phylogenetic utility of 20 noncoding chloroplast loci was subsequently performed to identify those regions most useful at resolving relationships. A cost-benefit analysis determined that five loci (trnQ–5′rps16, trnD–trnT, rpl32–trnL, psbD–trnT, ndhA intron) would maximize resolution and branch support in the clade. Cladistic analyses of four of these loci (trnQ–5′rps16, trnD–trnT, rpl32–trnL, ndhA intron) and the ITS region, separately and combined, revealed that Arracacia, Coaxana, Coulterophytum, Prionosciadium, and Rhodosciadium are each polyphyletic and that Donnellsmithia and Myrrhidendron are each monophyletic. Although most relationships in the Arracacia clade and among the closely-related genera Cotopaxia, Niphogeton, and Perissocoeleum are poorly resolved and supported, ten groups are recognized for future revisionary studies. Polyploidy and rapid species radiation have likely confounded generic circumscriptions and interpretation of relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-305
Number of pages20
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Arracacha
  • Intergenic spacer
  • Intron
  • Noncoding cpDNA
  • Páramo
  • Rapid species radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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