Edward Schilling of the UT ecology and evolutionary biology department was part of a team that discovered a new plant species from the eastern U.S. and in the process helped to solve an unresolved question regarding the ancestry of another, very rare species.
Schilling combined forces with field biologists working with the North Carolina Heritage Program to analyze a distinctive looking plant of the genus Eupatorium (thoroughworts, bonesets) that occurs in unique habitats termed Carolina Bays in coastal plain areas of North and South Carolina. The North Carolina biologists were the first to spot the new species, and using DNA sequence technology Dr. Schilling was able to confirm that it was really different compared to other species of the genus. The new species has been named Eupatorium paludicola (bay boneset).
The molecular data also revealed Eupatorium paludicola to be one of the parents of a very rare species of the northeastern U.S., Eupatorium novae-angliae (New England boneset), which is known from only 15 sites, solving a longstanding mystery regarding the origin of this species (the other parent is the widespread plant, common boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum).
The results are reported in a pair of articles that just appeared in the magazine Rhodora, the official publication of the New England Botanical Club, which is available at the University of Tennessee Library. Further information regarding the discovery of Eupatorium paludicola and its significance is available on the web site of the University of North Carolina herbarium (http://www.herbarium.unc.edu).
Photograph by Bruce Sorrie