Guest Speaker- Julian Starr (Davidson lecturer)

Tuesday November 28, 2023
12:30 pm ~ 01:30 pm
Tiger nuts and velcro plants: a walk through the phylogeny, biogeography, and diversity of sedges (family Cyperaceae)
MSL Auditorium
Quentin Cronk
Guest Speaker- Julian Starr (Davidson lecturer)
University of Ottawa
Botany Seminar Series

The Cyperaceae or sedge family is a truly remarkable group characterised by its exceptional diversity (ca. 5500 spp.), varied habitats (deserts to rain forests), unusual chromosomes (holocentric) and diverse biogeographical patterns (e.g., Gondwanan, bipolar). The family also possesses the largest number of species with C4 photosynthesis next to grasses, and frequent evolutionary shifts in insect-wind pollination and annual-perennial life histories. Distributed across every continent except Antarctica, sedges represent nearly 3% of the native vascular flora of North America, north of Mexico, and in some regions like the Arctic, they are the dominant component in terms of species diversity and biomass. In addition, approximately 10% of sedge species are of direct (medicines, crops) or indirect (weeds) economic importance to humanity, and yet sedges are largely unknown to the general public, and they are frequently mistaken for other plants like rushes or grasses, even by professionals. In this talk we will learn about the fascinating biology of Cyperaceae and how our understanding of their systematics has dramatically changed since the first molecular phylogenies of sedges were produced 25 years ago. Drawing on fieldwork in Asia, the Americas, and Europe, I will highlight the discoveries of new tribes, genera, and species, and how the latest next generation sequencing techniques, in conjunction with data sources like morphology and embryos, have helped produce the first reclassification of sedges to the tribal and generic levels in a quarter century.