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Phylogeography of the ancient Eurasian medicinal plant genus Bryonia (Cucurbitaceae) inferred from nuclear and chloroplast sequences

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Medicinal uses of Bryonia (Cucurbitaceae) have been recorded for over two millennia, and even today there is a considerable market for Bryonia preparations in homeopathic medicine. The long use as a medicinal plant has led to anthropogenic range changes, followed by naturalization and invasiveness in disturbed habitats, for example, in the United States and New Zealand. Here we use phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses of chloroplast and nuclear sequences to infer the major evolutionary units within Bryonia as well as their geographic history. Major clades in the gene trees fit with morphological differences and probably define ten biological species. Five species are endemic in the Irano-Turanian region, which also harbors the greatest chloroplast and nuclear haplotype diversity. Eurasia north of the southern permafrost border during the last glacial maximum has low species and haplotype diversity, fitting with relatively recent recolonization. The provenience of the B. alba genotype introduced to the United States could not be narrowed down; the B. dioica introduced to New Zealand and Georgia came from north-central, not southwestern Europe. In spite of anthropogenic range changes, Bryonia chloroplast haplotypes show a clear geographic pattern, and the role of interspecific hybridization appears to have been limited.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Menzinger Strasse 67, 80638 Munich, Germany 2: Department of Biology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Menzinger Strasse 67, 80638 Munich, Germany;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 May 2009

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