2006-2010, partially within a PhD project

Verhuellia, a poorly studied small genus with three species endemic to Cuba and Hispaniola generally considered as synonymous to Peperomia, was – based on morphological traits – suspected to be a segregate genus closely related to the latter genus. However, molecular analyses of the whole order Piperales based on chloroplast trnT-trnL-trnF and trnK-matK showed that Verhuellia is neither part nor closely related to Peperomia but sister to all Piperaceae genera. As a consequence of this novel position, the traditional subdivision of the family Piperaeae in Piperoideae and Peperomioideae was not longer justified and a new subfamily Verhuellioideae was described. In addition, a thorough review of all publications mentioning Verhuellia and a detailed study of the herbarium specimens involved was undertaken. This resulted in a survey of the chaotic taxonomy of Verhuellia and clarification of all nomenclatural obscurities. Living material became available shortly afterwards and this presented the possibility of answering some evolutionary questions relating to the family Piperaceae. Detailed observations showed that, despite the superficial similarities with different genera of Piperaceae and Saururaceae, the segregate position of Verhuellia revealed by molecular phylogenetics is supported by morphological, developmental and anatomical data.
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Relevant publications:
Samain MS
, Vrijdaghs A, Hesse M, Goetghebeur P, Jiménez Rodriguez F, Stoll A, Neinhuis C, Wanke S. (2010) Verhuellia is a segregate lineage in Piperaceae: more evidence from flower, fruit and pollen morphology, anatomy and development. Annals of Botany 105: 677-688.
Samain MS, Mathieu G, Wanke S, Neinhuis C, Goetghebeur P. (2008) Verhuellia revisited – unravelling an intricate taxonomic history and a new subfamilial classification of Piperaceae. Taxon 57: 583-587.
Wanke S, Vanderschaeve L, Mathieu G, Neinhuis C, Goetghebeur P, Samain MS. (2007) From forgotten taxon to a missing link? The position of the genus Verhuellia (Piperaceae) revealed by molecules. Annals of Botany 99: 1231-1238.

Principal investigator:
Prof. Dr. Marie-Stéphanie Samain

Associated researchers:
Dr. Guido Mathieu
Liesbeth Vanderschaeve

Laboratory technician:
Pieter Asselman

Prof. Dr. Paul Goetghebeur

Dr. Stefan Wanke - TU Dresden, Germany

TU Dresden Biology Department, Plant Phylogenetics and Phylogenomics Group, Germany

Ghent University
Department of Biology
Research Group Spermatophytes
Ghent University Botanical Garden