Stichting Arboretum Wespelaar: The charismatic Asimina and Deeringothamnus: evolutionary history, species limits and conservation

01 October 2022 → 30 September 2023
Funding by bilateral agreement (private and foundations)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Biogeography and phylogeography
    • Phylogeny and comparative analysis
    • Speciation
    • Plant systematics and taxonomy
    • Conservation and biodiversity
Annonaceae Asimina Deeringothamnus United States of America Conservation Phylogenomics Flower morphology Floral scent
Project description

Asimina and Deeringothamnus are the only genera occurring in subtropical and temperate regions, in the otherwise tropical plant family Annonaceae. The genera together contain 11 species, occurring in the southeast of the USA, including Asimina triloba that produces edible fruits known as pawpaw. Three species of Asimina and Deeringothamnus are endangered. Previous work has demonstrated that different flower morphologies and floral scents likely contribute to the maintenance of reproductive boundaries between the species.

Furthermore, mixed morphologies are common in Asimina and Deeringothamnus, and much evidence of hybridization between the species has been documented, with some recognized species being of hybrid origin. Because of this, reconstructing phylogenetic relationships among the species is a challenge that will be tackled using state-of-the-art sequencing phylogenomic techniques. The goals of the project are to:

  1. Infer the evolutionary tree of Asimina and Deeringothamnus using genomic data and cutting-edge analytical tools.
  2. Combine the genomic evolutionary tree with morphological and floral scent evidence to define the species boundaries.
  3. Generate an updated list of species of Asimina and Deeringothamnus providing information about detailed geographic distribution, with a newly produced IUCN conservation status for each species.
  4. Create a photographic field guide using the new species list as reference.
  5. Outreach to authorities and conservation agencies in southeastern USA in our network to share our results for the benefit of conservation.