Broomrapes (Orobanche spp.) are a cosmopolitan genus of root holoparasites–non-photosynthetic angiosperms that obtain nutrients and energy by connecting to the roots of other plants. Using a phylogenetic study, based on mitrochondrial and ribosomal nuclear DNA markers, of western-hemisphere broomrapes, Schneider et al. demonstrate that extensive cryptic diversity is congruent with host association.
This highlights the important role that host-switching plays in the evolution and diversification of parasitic plants. Orobanche cooperi is a root parasite of Hymenoclea salsola and several other Astereaceae in the southwestern North American desert. Extensive morphological reduction of these plants masks the extensive diversity of western-hemisphere Orobanche. Most of these plants parasitize unique hosts, suggesting the likely role that host-switching plays in speciation.
Jatropha curcas could be an oil crop with major biofuel potential, but the breeding germplasm has little variation. Botanists have found that there is genetic potential in previously overlooked non-toxic jatropha, but it needs conservation.
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