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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
July 31, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence


Engelmann (top) and Yuncker (below) - the Lords of Cuscuta

How many species of Cuscuta are out there?



How many species of Cuscuta are ‘vampirizing’ plants out there?

I decided to answer this question because I noticed that many current sources mention that Cuscuta has only 100-145 species. If you don’t like these plants, perhaps you will be disappointed to find out that there are more than 200 species of Cuscuta worldwide! Strangely enough, this was the number that Choisy predicted in 1841, when only about 40 species were known. Where is the 200 number coming from? Take a look here:

 

Number of species revealed by monographs of the genus

Choisy (1841)...............................................39 spp.

Engelmann (1859).........................................77 spp.

Yuncker (1932)............................................165 spp. (this is the last

                                                         monograph of the genus).

 

New species published after 1932 (to be added to 165)

 

Truman G. Yuncker (1934-1965)....................................18 spp.

Armando Hunzinker (1944-1947)....................................10 spp.

Naomi Feinbrun (1965, 1970)...........................................2 spp.

Miquel A. García (1999-2001)..........................................3 spp.

Mihai Costea (2010)........................................................10 spp.

                                                     TOTAL >>  200 species

In addition, there are many new species that were published from Central Asia that have not been verified yet: Cuscuta callinema Butkov; Cuscuta convallariiflora Pavlov; Cuscuta elpassiana Pavlov; Cuscuta ferganensis Butkov; Cuscuta lophosepala Butkov; Cuscuta pamirica Butkov; Cuscuta pellucida Butkov; Cuscuta ruschanica S.Yu.Yunusov; Cuscuta syrtorum Arbajeva. Also, one new species from China, Cuscuta macrolepis R.C.Fang & S.H.Huang and one from Bangladesh, Cuscuta chittagongensis G. Sen Gupta, M. Salar Khan & Huq. However, even without these, the total number worldwide exceeds 200 species. I must emphasize that, with a few exceptions, the species-level taxonomy provided by Yuncker has proven to be remarkably solid from our modern point of view. The “splitter syndrome” that some have accused him of is totally undeserved—at least for Cuscuta. The number 200 can only go up as there are at least 15-20 undescribed species (that we know of!) from the Latin America.  

 

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