A molecular phylogeny of the wild onions (Allium; Alliaceae) with a focus on the western North American center of diversity

Nhu H Nguyen, Heather E. Driscoll, Chelsea D. Specht

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59 Scopus citations


Nuclear ribosomal DNA (ITS and ETS) sequences from 39 native Californian (USA) Allium species and congeners were combined with 154 ITS sequences available on GenBank to develop a global Allium phylogeny with the simultaneous goals of investigating the evolutionary history (monophyly) of Allium in the Californian center of diversity and exploring patterns of adaptation to serpentine soils. Phylogenies constructed with ITS alone or ITS in combination with ETS provided sufficient resolution for investigating evolutionary relationships among species. The ITS region alone was sufficient to resolve the deeper relationships in North American species. Addition of a second marker (ETS) further supports the phylogenetic placements of the North American species and adds resolution within subgenus Amerallium, a clade containing many Californian endemics. Within the global phylogeny, the native North American species were found to be monophyletic, with the exception of Allium tricoccum and Allium schoenoprasum. All native Californian species included in the analysis fell into a monophyletic subgenus Amerallium section Lophioprason, although endemic Californian species were not monophyletic due to the inclusion of species with ranges extending beyond the California Floristic Province. The molecular phylogeny strongly supports previous morphology-based taxonomic groupings. Based on our results, serpentine adaptation appears to have occurred multiple times within section Lophioprason, while the ancestor of the Californian center of diversity may not have been serpentine-adapted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1157-1172
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008


  • Allium
  • Amerallium
  • Californian endemic
  • ETS
  • Ecological reconstruction
  • ITS
  • Lophioprason
  • Molecular phylogeny
  • Serpentine
  • Wild onion


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