Systematics and evolution of the Yellow Star of Bethlehem

The systematics and evolution of Gagea sensu lato in Iran has been the subject of four recent research papers.

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29 Nov 2012

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Photo: Gagea calcicola

Gagea calcicola (Image: Mehdi Zarrei)

The PhD research of Mehdi Zarrei on the systematics and evolution of Gagea, a small and usually yellow-flowered genus of liliaceous bulb, has been published in four papers. Others involved in this work include Mark Chase and Paul Wilkin from Kew and Martin Ingrouille from Birkbeck College (University of London).

Photo: Gagea uliginosa
Gagea uliginosa (Image: Mehdi Zarrei)

The most recent paper, published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, used a large number of sequences of the low-copy nuclear gene malate synthase (MS) to investigate relationships in twelve closely related species in the Gagea reticulata species complex.

To resolve these relationships, it proved necessary to supplement standard phylogenetic tools with novel statistical methods. It was discovered that lineages based on haplotype groups are not fully congruent with morphologically-derived species limits and that there is a geographical component to MS gene evolution in Iran, the centre of diversity of the complex.

Two papers present a checklist of the 29 species of Gagea found in Iran (with a key and distribution maps) and a revised subgeneric classification. The latter reinforced the placement of Lloydia within Gagea and divided the expanded genus into seven sections.

The fourth paper shows that Gagea kunawurensis (Royle) Greuter is the correct name for G. stipitata Merckl. ex Bunge, that G. gageoides (Zucc.) Vved. is the correct name for G. persica Boiss., and that G. kashmirensis Turrill should be reduced to synonymy with G. tenera Pascher.

Item from Dr Paul Wilkin (Lilioid & Alismatid Monocots and Ferns Team Leader, RBG Kew)
Kew Scientist, issue 41

Article references:

Zarrei, M., Wilkin, P., Noltie, H. & Chase, M. W. (2011). Clarifying the nomenclature and taxonomy of Gagea kunawurensis (Royle) Greuter and allied taxa. Edinburgh Journal of Botany 68: 43–59.

Zarrei, M., Wilkin, P., Ingrouille, M. J. & Chase, M. W. (2011). A revised infrageneric classification for Gagea (Tulipeae; Liliaceae): insights from DNA sequence and morphological data. Phytotaxa 15: 44–56.

Zarrei, M., Wilkin, P. & Chase, M. W. (2011). Gagea Salisb. (Liliaceae) in Iran: an updated species checklist. Phytotaxa 15: 33–43.

Zarrei, M., Wilkin, P., Ingrouille, M. J., Leitch, I. J., Buerki, S., Fay, M. F. & Chase, M. W. (2012). Speciation and evolution in the Gagea reticulata species complex (Tulipeae; Liliaceae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62: 624-639.


Lilioid & Alismatid Monocot Research

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