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Schoenus (Cyperaceae tribe Schoeneae): classification and phylogeny of a big sedge genus

Start date:
01 Jan 2008
End date:
31 Dec 2016
JJ Bruhl AK Gibbs PM Musili KL Wilson RL Barrett
Project sponsors:
Australian Biological Resources Study

Project aims

  • Elucidate the phylogeny of Schoenus using molecular and morphological data
  • Clarify the nomenclature of the species 
  • Describe new species

Project Summary

One of the larger genera in family Cyperaceae (the 'sedges') is Schoenus with about 120 species. One species is globally widespread, but the greatest diversity is in Australia (c. 80 species), particularly in the heathlands of the south-west and south-east, with other species in habitats from tropical to arid and alpine. There is a secondary area of diversity in Malesia (13 species, mostly in higher altitude areas).

Karen Wilson has had a long-standing interest in the genus and has described several new species. She did a preliminary survey in the 1990s, establishing the value of anatomical characters for distinguishing species. We are now examining generic and specific limits for the genus using molecular, morphological and anatomical data. Initial molecular results from this study and from the broader study of the whole tribe Schoeneae indicate that there are several distinct clades. 

Research Update

Progress reports at national conferences in 2009, 2010
Publication of two new species endemic to New Caledonia 2015