Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Restionaceae - DNA studies

Dr Barbara Briggs, Honorary Research Associate & Dr Adam Marchant

Continuing their studies on Restionaceae, Dr Adam Marchant and Dr Barbara Briggs assembled sequence data from chloroplast DNA from further species. Assisted by Dr Andrew Perkins, they developed phylogenies showing the relationships between Australian genera and species and considered the status of the group of diminutive plants known as the Centrolepidaceae. The findings suggest that the Centrolepidaceae should be regarded as a subgroup of the Restionaceae, rather than a separate, but related, family. The work involved interpreting (often discordant) results from different genes and different methods of analysis in these plant groups which have exceptionally fast rates of evolutionary change in their DNA. A paper on their findings was prepared for presentation at the Monocots IV conference in Copenhagen.

Since three robustly supported clades are apparent within Restionaceae, Dr Briggs and Professor Peter Linder of the University of Zurich have recognised these as subfamilies. They have prepared descriptions of two new Australian subfamilies of Restionaceae to provide names for these major groups. A name already exists for the one African subfamily of Restionaceae and also for the Centrolepidaceae clade if this is included within Restionaceae.

Meeboldina crassipes
Meeboldina crassipes (Restionaceae) a West Australian species in habitats that are wet in winter but dry out in summer. DNA studies are showing relationships among species of this Southern Hemisphere plant family. Photo: B Briggs