2013 Mentors and Projects
Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany

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Dr. Libing Zhang

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Dr. Libing Zhang

Associate Curator, MBG

Research Interests

• Phylogeny, systematics, and evolution of ferns, lycophytes, and flowering plants
• Biogeography of intercontinental disjunctions of plants: e.g., Anisophyllaceae, Fabaceae, Primulaceae, Rosaceae

Web Page: MBG

Project: Pollen morphology of Anisophylleaceae. The family Anisophylleaceae (order Cucurbitales) is one of the least known seed plant groups, comprising ca. 66 species in four genera: Anisophyllea with two species in South America, ca. 25 in mainland Africa, four in Madagascar, and ca. 31 in Malesia, Combretocarpus with one species in Sumatra and Borneo, Poga with one species in equatorial Africa, and Polygonanthus with two in the Brazilian Amazon Basin. Except for a few economically important species, Anisophylleaceae are rarely collected and their ecology, pollination, and seed dispersal biology have not been studied. Combretocarpus rotundatus and Poga oleosa are important timber trees, and the seeds of Poga also yield cooking oil. The continental disjunctions among and within the genera led Raven and Axelrod (1974) to hypothesize a West Gondwanan history for the group. An ongoing taxonomic work shows that the leaf shape, the morphology of venation, glandular hairs and/or glands, and flower organs are major taxonomic characters. This project aims to examine the pollen morphology (e.g., size, sculpturing) of most species of the family (pollen material is already available) using electronic scanning microscope. The palynological characters gathered will be used to test morphological, taxonomic, and biogeographical hypotheses.

Selected Publications 

  • Zhang L-B, MP Simmons, and SS Renner. 2007. A phylogeny of Anisophylleaceae based on six nuclear and plastid loci: Ancient disjunctions and recent dispersal between South America, Africa, and Asia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 44: 1057–1067.
  • Chen X and L-B Zhang (in prep.). A taxonomic revision of Anisophylleaceae.
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