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Date: 2018/3/5

NTU Faculty and Student Describe Two New Genera of Berberidaceae

Over two centuries, botanists have been trying to figure out whether Berberis and Mahonia, the two largest members of Berberidaceae, should be in the same genus or not. This long-standing taxonomic debate is largely due to the previous poor understanding of a group of arid-adapted New World Mahonia and Berberis which possess an intermediate morphology between two genera.

To revisit the issue, Dr. Kuo-Fang Chung (鍾國芳), Associate Professor at the NTU School of Forestry and Resource Conservation, and his PhD student, Chih-Chieh Yu (游旨价), spent five years collecting these distinct plants in the United States and Mexico, and eventually described two new genera through DNA analyses.

Their study, published in the December 2017 issue of TAXON, the world’s leading journal of plant systematics, and selected as one of the cover stories, not only resolves the classic taxonomic debate but improves studies of related disciplines like pharmacy and horticulture. The new genus, Moranothamnus (≡ B. claireae) is only known from its type locality at the canyons restricted to the coastal areas of Southeast Eréndira in Mexico. The generic name was proposed by Dr. Peter H. Raven, a world-leading scholar in the field of botanical diversity and conservation, to honor Dr. Reid V. Moran, who studied and named Berberis claireae and made tremendous contributions to the flora of Baja California. The other one, Alloberberis (≡ Mahonia sect. Horridae), is distributed in the Southwest United States and Northwest Mexico, and was also named by Dr. Peter H. Raven to emphasize its distinction from the traditional Berberis species.

For detailed information, please refer to the paper, “Why Mahonia? Molecular recircumscription of Berberis s.l., with the description of two new genera, Alloberberis and Moranothamnus,” in TAXON, 66(6), 2017. DOI: https://doi.org/10.12705/666.6.

  • The Kofa Mountains at the edge of the Sonoran Desert is the habitat of the rare arid-adapted Mahonia.

    The Kofa Mountains at the edge of the Sonoran Desert is the habitat of the rare arid-adapted Mahonia.

  • Moranothamnus is proposed to honor Dr. Reid V. Moran, who studied and named Berberis claireae and made tremendous contributions to the flora of Baja California.

    Moranothamnus is proposed to honor Dr. Reid V. Moran, who studied and named Berberis claireae and made tremendous contributions to the flora of Baja California.

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