DNA barcoding of a complex genus, Aesculus L. (Sapindaceae) reveals lack of species-level resolution
MetadataShow full item record
Aesculus L. is a small genus of horticulturally important trees and shrubs, comprising 13-19 species. Frequent hybridization among species, particularly in cultivation, has contributed to taxonomic confusion and difficulties in the identification of plants. In this study, we evaluated three widely employed plant DNA barcode loci, matK, and the entire ITS region (ITS1+5.8S+ITS2) as well as subunit ITS2 for 50 individuals representing 13 species of Aesculus, excluding only A. wangii (=A. assamica). In contrast to the plastid matK region, both the ITS and ITS2 loci displayed low levels of species discrimination, especially in our "first hit" BLASTn searches. We also presented the phylogeny of Aesculus based on matK and the entire ITS region, with additional matK and ITS sequences from GenBank. Our results show that Aesculus chinensis, A. flava, A. glabra, A. pavia, and A. sylvatica are probably not monophyletic. Furthermore, with the widest taxon coverage until now, the current study highlights the importance of sampling multiple individuals, not only for DNA barcoding, but also for phylogenetic studies.