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Research in my laboratory focuses on studying evolutionary history and reproductive ecology in the genus Passiflora. This genus, commonly known as passionflowers or passion fruit, is a lineage (ca. 600 species) of tropical vines and small trees primarily found in Mexico and Central and South America. Our research explores morphological, anatomical, and developmental changes in floral and vegetative morphology that have led to the great diversity in form observed in this lineage. In addition, we study reproductive biology looking at pollination syndromes, self-compatibility, and floral phenology in species of interest. We are also interested in the evolution of nectaries, or sugar secreting structures, in Passiflora, as they may represent a potential key innovation associated with greater species richness and increased rates of molecular evolution. We have addressed many of these questions in Passiflora subgenus Decaloba, a group of ca. 260 species of “tiny-flowered” passionflowers. Subgenus Decaloba is especially interesting because it has the broadest geographical distribution of any lineage in the genus (species reach the southern US, as well as Southeast Asia and the Austral Pacific). Many of these species are endangered or on the verge of extinction, and most have never been studied before. Using DNA sequence data in combination with morphological, developmental, and functional data, we are able to better understand the historical patterns of diversification in this amazingly diverse group of plants.

About me…