Gesneriaceae

Gesneriaceae is a family of tropical herbs and shrubs comprising around 150 genera and over 3400 species. The family is of great interest due to its morphological diversity and novelty, prevalence in the herbaceous layer of the tropics and its potential to indicate habitat change. The aim of this programme is to document the species diversity in the family, investigate the evolutionary processes that have given rise to this diversity and to understand the genetics underlying particular morphologies.

RBGE has a long history of work on Gesneriaceae of the Old World especially those from Africa and Asia and as a result has outstanding living, herbarium and library collections which underpin this research programme.

Current research includes the taxonomy, generic limits and biogeography of the family, focusing on the Old World taxa (subfamily Didymocarpoideae; tribe Trichosporeae). Recent work has included the proposal of a new classification for the family to bring it in line with the phylogeny, and to provide a stable generic framework (Weber et al., 2013).

Projects on Gesneriaceae at RBGE include:

  • Relationships and generic limits of Gesneriaceae  (M. Moeller, J.L. Clark [Alabama], A. Weber [Vienna])
  • Generic delimitations and taxonomic revisions in subtribe Loxocarpinae (C. Puglisi, D. Middleton [Singapore], M. Moeller, R. Milne [UoE])
  • Taxonomic revision of Microchirita (C. Puglisi)
  • Taxonomic revision of Cyrtandra of Sulawesi (H. Atkins, A. Kartonegoro [Bogor])
  • Checklist of Aeschynanthus (H. Atkins, D. Middleton [Singapore])
  • Taxonomic revision of Gesneriaceae of Sri Lanka (S. Ranasinghe, M. Moeller, R. Milne [UoE])
  • Phylogeny and character evolution in Oreocharis (M. Moeller, W.H. Chen, Y.M. Shui [Kunming])
  • Delineation of Raphiocarpus (M. Moeller, Y.M. Shui, W.H. Chen [Kunming])
  • Generic and infrageneric classification of Streptocarpus (M. Moeller, K. Nishii)
  • Phylogeny, biogeography and dating of Gesneriaceae (J. Luna-Castro,  M. Moeller, J. Richardson, R. Milne [UoE]), J.L. Clark [Alabama])
  • Taxonomy and biogeography of Corallodiscus (M. Moeller, P. Zhou, L.M. Gao [Kunming])
  • Biogeography of Malesian Cyrtandra (H. Atkins, M. Hughes, G. Bramley [RBG Kew], J.R. Clark [Missouri])

Also see our current work on evolutionary-developmental genetics, cytology and the cytology database on the family.

Selected Publications:

Bone R & H Atkins (2013). Four new species of Cyrtandra (Gesneriaceae) from the Latimojong Mountains, South Sulawesi. Edinburgh Journal of Botany 70(3): 455-468.

Chen WH, YM Shui, JB Yang, H Wang, K Nishii, F Wen, ZR Zhang, M Möller (2014). Taxonomic status, phylogenetic affinities and genetic diversity of a presumed extinct genus, Paraisometrum W.T.Wang (Gesneriaceae) from the karst regions of Southwest China. PLoS ONE 9(9): e107967. doi: 10.1371.

de Villiers MJ, MD Pirie, M Hughes, M Möller, TJ Edwards, DU Bellstedt (2013). An approach to identify putative hybrids in the ‘coalescent stochasticity zone’, as exemplified in the African plant genus Streptocarpus (Gesneriaceae). New Phytologist 198: 284-300.

Middleton DJ, K Nishii, M Möller (2015). Chayamaritia (Gesneriaceae: Didymocarpoideae), a new genus from Southeast Asia. Plant Systematics and Evolution, in press.

Middleton DJ, H Atkins, LH Truong, K Nishii & M Möller (2014). Billolivia, a new genus of Gesneriaceae from Vietnam with five new species. Phytotaxa 161(4): 241-269.

Möller M, JL Clark (2013). The state of molecular phylogenetic work in the family Gesneriaceae: a review. Selbyana 31(2): 95-125.

Möller M, WH Chen, YM Shui, H Atkins, DJ Middleton (2014). A new genus of Gesneriaceae in China and the transfer of Briggsia species to other genera. Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore 66(2): 195-205.

Nishii K, M Hughes, M Briggs, E Haston, F Christie, MJ DeVilliers, T Hanekom, WG Roos, DU Bellstedt Michael Möller (2015). Streptocarpus redefined to include all Afro-Malagasy Gesneriaceae: Molecular phylogenies indicate congruence with biogeography and cytology and remarkable morphological homoplasies. Taxon, accepted.

Petrova G, D Moyankova, K Nishii, L Forrest, I Tsiripidis, AD Drouzas, D Djilianov, M Möller (2015). The European paleoendemic Haberlea rhodopensis (Gesneriaceae) has an Oligocene origin, Pleistocene diversification and occurs in a long persisting refugial area in South-Eastern Europe. International Journal of Plant Sciences, in proof.

Puglisi C, S Suddee, P Triboun, DJ Middleton (2015). A new species of Paraboea (Gesneriaceae) from Thailand. Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore. In press.

Weber A, JL Clark, M Möller (2013). A new formal classification of Gesneriaceae. Selbyana 31(2) 68-94.

For further information, please contact members of the Gesneriaceae Research Group:

Michael Möller: Chinese and African Gesneriaceae, evo-devo, cytology and general enquiries.

Hannah Atkins: SE Asian Gesneriaceae

Sadie Barber: horticulture, research collection

Yun-Yu Chen: PhD student, evo-devo

Frieda Christie: seed ontogeny, SEM, light microscopy

Nathan Kelso: horticulture, research collection

Javier Luna Castro: PhD student, biogeography and dating, evo-devo

Carmen Puglisi: Sibbald Fellow, Loxocarpinae, Microchirita

Subhani Ranasinghe: PhD student, Sri Lankan Gesneriaceae

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Africa: Streptocarpus dunnii Hook.f.


Europe: Ramonda myconi Rchb.


Sri Lanka: Henckelia walkerae (Gardner) D.J.Middleton & Mich.Möller


India: Jerdonia indica Wight


China: Lysionotus serratus D.Don


Sulawesi: Cyrtandra serratifolia H.J.Atkins


Thailand: Microchirita involucrata (Craib) Yin Z.Wang

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