Cuscuta jepsonii (Convolvulaceae), an invasive weed or an extinct endemic? American Journal of Botany 96:1744–1750.
Mihai Costea and Saša Stefanović,
published: 2009 | Research publication | Cuscuta
Despite their ecological significance, parasitic plants face more conservation challenges than do autotrophic plants. This is especially true for the groups that include some weedy or invasive species such as Cuscuta. While approximately half of the Cuscuta (dodders) species may require conservation measures, the genus as a whole is sometimes posted on governmental lists of noxious or quarantine weeds. Our study challenges this stereotype and uses the case of Cuscuta jepsonii (Jepson’s dodder) to illustrate the precarious biodiversity and conservation status faced by many dodder species. Until now, Jepson’s dodder has been known only from its type collection. Consequently, its phylogenetic affinities, morphological variation, and ecology have remained unknown, and the species is currently ambiguously considered either synonymous to an invasive North American weed, C. indecora, or an extinct endemic from California. Using molecular data from newly found collections we infer that C. jepsonii belongs to C. californica species complex, instead of C. indecora clade. Also, we discuss the conservation of this species within the broader biological and ecological context of Cuscuta in general.
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