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Color variation and secondary metabolites’ footprint in a taxonomic complex of Phyteuma sp. (Campanulaceae)

  • Grohar, Mariana Cecilia
  • Medič, Aljaž
  • Ivančič, Tea
  • Veberič, Robert
  • Jogan, Jernej
Publication Date
Nov 11, 2022
University of Ljubljana
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In the genus Phyteuma, the taxonomic delimitation of some species is difficult since a high variability of morphological traits, such as flower color, is present, probably due to high levels of hybridization. Historic descriptions and the morphological traits used in the taxonomic keys are sometimes unclear and lead to misinterpretations. Here, a detailed analysis of flower color variability in different populations of sympatric P. spicatum, P. ovatum, and P. persicifolium constitutes a new approach to clarifying the taxonomic statuses. The numeric analysis of color, providing colorimetric variables, together with the detailed description of the metabolic profiles of populations with different flower colors, constitute a unique chemical fingerprint that identifies species and subspecies with clear markers. This study is the most complete metabolic research on genus Phyteuma, since we identified and quantified 44 phenolic compounds using HPLC-MS, comprising 14 phenolic acids, 23 flavonols and flavones, and, for the first time in the genus, 7 anthocyanins involved in flower color variability. This approach contributes to clarifying the differences between species, which is particularly relevant in taxonomic complexes such as the present, where morphology fails to clearly differentiate taxa at specific and intraspecific levels.

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