venus flytrap

Dr. Jenny Xiang - Professor
Plant systematics and evolution of flowering plants

Research Interests

Our research spans a wide range of topics in plant systematics and evolution, involving undergraduate and graduate students as well as international collaborations. Our general research goal is to test systematic and evolutionary hypotheses in a phylogenetic context. We integrate information from DNA sequences, morphology, and fossils to reconstruct the phylogeny of plants and use the phylogeny as a basis to elucidate the biogeographic history (e.g., time and place of origin, time and routes of migration) and to understand the rate and pattern of molecular and morphological evolution. We apply molecular population genetics and phylogeographic approaches to study evolutionary patterns and dynamics in rare and endangered species, in natural hybrid zones, and polyploidy species. We have also expanded our research to evolutionary developmental genetics to understand the molecular and developmental basis of morphological changes. The dogwoods and their close relatives (Cornales) have been our main focus. Other plants we have studied or are currently studying include the buckeye genus, Aesculus, and the federally endangered smooth coneflower, Echinacea laevigata, and some other plants that display discontinuous distributions in eastern Asia and eastern North America.


The main course I teach is Plant Systematics (BO 403/503, 4 credits, lab and lectures), which is offered every fall for undergraduate and graduate level students. Teaching a Plant Systematics course is extremely challenging, as systematics is a rapidly developing discipline. Presenting such an enormous body of information in one semester's time is difficult. Another challenge is the range of prior knowledge with which students enter the class.  The course has been reorganized to place emphasis on modern techniques of systemic analysis, and recent discoveries, while introducing basic skills and principles to students.

Other teaching efforts:

PB 495/595  Study Abroad Program: Plant Resources, Ecology and Culture in China
PB  493 (undergraduate research) Contact Dr. Chad Jordan for details.

PB 624T: Molecular Systematic Topics, 1 credit

Selected Recent Publications

  • Kang, M, J Tao, J Wang, Q Qi, QY(J) Xiang, HW Huang. Accepted. Adaptive and non-adaptive genome size evolution in Karst endemic flora of China. New Phytologist.
  • Wall, WA, N Douglas, WA Hoffmann, TR Wentworth, JB Gray, QY(J) Xiang, BK Knaus and MG Hohmann. Accepted with major revision. Evidence of population bottleneck in Astragalus michauxii (Fabaceae), a Fall-line Sandhills plant endemic to the southeastern United States. Conservation Genetics.
  • Zhang*, J, RG Franks, X Liu*, M Kang, JEM Keebler, JE Schaff, HW Huang#, QY(J) Xiang#.2013. Comparative 454 transcriptome sequencing of  dogwood inflorescences – characterization and identification of candidate genes for evolutionary developmental biology and phylogenomic studies. PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082674
  • Xiang, QY(J). 2013. Cornales (Dogwood). V2, a0024667.  In eLS 2013,  John Wiley & Sons Ltd: Chichester [DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003729.pub2]
  • Liu, J, RG. Franks, CM Feng*, X Liu*, CX Fu, Q-Y(J) Xiang. 2013. Characterization of the sequence and expression pattern of LFY homologs from dogwoods species (Cornus L.) with divergent inflorescence architectures. Annals of Botany. Annals of Botany doi: 10.1093/aob/mct202.
  • Zhao, YP*, WW Ma, QY Dai, ZC Qi, P Li. KM Cameron, J Lee, QY(J) Xiang#, CX Fu#.  2013. Comparative phylogeography of the Smilax hispida group (Smilacaceae) in eastern Asia and North America – implications in allopatric speciation, causes of diversity disparity, and origins of temperate elements in Mexico.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 68: 300–311.
  • Guo*, YL, A Pais*, AS. Weakley, QY (J) Xiang.  2013. Molecular Phylogenetic analysis suggests paraphyly and early diversification of Philadelphus (Hydrangeaceae) in western North America: New insights into affinity with Carpenteria. Journla of Systematics and Evolution. 51 (5): 545–563. doi: 10.1111/jse.12041.
  • Harris*, AJ, J Wen, and QY(J) Xiang. 2013. Inferring the biogeographic origins of inter-continental disjunct endemics using a Bayes-DIVA Approach. Journal of Systematics and Evolution.  51: 117–133 (2013). Cover page.
  • Liu*, X, CM Feng*, R Franks, R Qu, DY Xie, and QY(J)  Xiang. 2013. Plant regeneration and genetic transformation of C. canadensis: a non-model plant appropriate for investigation of flower development in Cornus (Cornaceae). Plant Cell Report.  32: 77-87. Oneline first: 2012, DOI 10.1007/s00299-012-1341-x.
  • Feng*, CM, X Liu*, Y Yu*, WH Zhang*, DY Xie, RG Franks, and QY(J) Xiang.  2012. Evolution of bract development and B-class MADS box gene expression in petaloid bracts of Cornus s. l. (Cornaceae). New Phytologist. 196: 631-643. Online first: DOI:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2012.04255.x. Cover page.
  • Liu*, J, ZC Qi*, YP Zhao*, CX Fu and Q-Y(J) Xiang. 2012. Chloroplast DNA phylogenomics of Monocots – Insights into the placement of Liliales and influences of gene partitions.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 64: 545-562.
  • Feng*, CM, QY(J) Xiang#, RG Franks#. 2011. Phylogeny-based developmental analyses illuminate evolution of inflorescence architectures in dogwoods (Cornus s. l., Cornaceae) New Phytologist. 191:850-869. Cover page.
  • Xiang, QY(J), DT Thomas*, and QP Xiang*. 2011. Resolving and dating the phylogeny of Cornales- effects of taxon sampling, data partitions, and fossil calibrations. Mol. Phylogen. Evol. 59: 123-138.
  • Douglas*, NA., AW Wall*, QY(J) Xiang, TR Wentworth, WA Hoffmann, MG Hohmann. 2011. Recent vicariance and the origin of the rare, edaphically specialized Sandhills Lily, Lilium pyrophilum (Liliaceae): evidence from phylogenetic and coalescent analyses. Molecular Ecology. 20:2901-2915. Cover page.
  • Post*, AR, R Ali, A Krings, J Xiang, BR Sosinski, JC Neal. 2011. On the Identity of the Weedy Bittercresses (Cardamine: Brassicaceae) in United States Nurseries: Evidence from Molecules and Morphology.  Weed Science : 59: 123-135. 
  • Boufford, DE, CX Fu, QY Xiang and Y P Zhao.  2010.  Observations on Buckleya (Thesiaceae ) in China.  J. Bot. Res. Inst. Texas 4: 281-286.
  • Wall*, AW, NA Douglas*, QY(J) Xiang, WA Hoffmann, TR Wentworth, and MG Hohmann. 2010. Evidence for range stasis during the latter Pleistocene for the Atlantic Coastal Plain endemic genus, Pysidanthera Michaux. Molecular Ecology 19: 4302-4314.
  • Manchester, SR, QY (J) Xiang, and QP Xiang*. 2010. Fruits of Cornelian cherries (Cornaceae: Cornus Subg. Cornus) in the Paleocene and Eocene of the Northern Hemisphere. International Journal of Plant Sciences.171:882–891.
  • Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (as one of the contributors). 2009. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.161: 105–121.
  • Wen, J, Xiang, QY, Qian, H, Li, J, Wang, XQ & Ickert-Bond, SM. 2009. Intercontinental and intracontinental biogeography—patterns and methods. Journal of Systematics and Evolution. 47, 327-330.
  • Manchester, SR, QY(J) Xiang, TM Kodrul, and M Akhmetiev. 2009. Leaves of Cornus (Cornaceae) from the Paleocene of North America and Asia confirmed by trichome characters. International Journal of Plant sciences. 170:132–142.
  • Feng*, CM, SR, Manchester, QY(J) Xiang. 2009. Phylogeny and biogeography of Alangiaceae (Cornales) inferred from DNA sequences, morphology, and fossils. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 51:201-214.
  • Feng*, CM, R. Qu, LL Zhou, DY Xie, and QY(J) Xiang. 2009. Shoot regeneration of dwarf dogwood (Cornus canadensis L.) and morphological characterization of the regenerated plants. Plant Cell Tiss Organ Cult. 97:27-37.
  • Harris*, AJ and QY(J) Xiang, 2009. Estimating ancestral distributions of lineages with uncertain sister groups: a statistical approach to dispersal–vicariance analysis and a case using Aesculus L. (Sapindaceae) including fossils. Journal of Systematics and Evolution. 47: 349–368.
  • Harris* AJ, QY(J) Xiang, and DT Thomas*. 2009. Molecular and morphological inference of the phylogeny, origin, and biogeographic History of Aesculus L. (Sapindaceae or Hippocastanaceae). TAXON 58:1-19.
  • Peters*, M., QY(J) Xiang, and J Stucky. 2009. Genetic analyses of the federally endangered Echinacea laevigata using amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) - Inferences in population genetic structure and mating system. Conservation Genetics. 10: 1-14.
  • Xiang, QP, QY(J), Xiang, YY Guo, and XC Zhang. 2009. Phylogeny of Abies (Pinaceae) inferred from ITS sequence data. TAXON 58: 141-152.
  • Post, AR; JC Neal, A Krings,BR Sosinski, QY Xiang. 2009. New Zealand bittercress (Cardamine corymbosa; Brassicaceae): new to the United States. Weed Technology 23: 604-607.
  • Post*, AR., A Krings, QY Xiang, BR Sosinski, and JC Neal.  2009.  Lectotypification of Cardamine flexuosa (Brassicaceae).  J. Bot. Res. Inst. Texas 3:227-230. 
  • Xiang QY(J), JL Thorne, TK Seo, WH Zhang*, DT Thomas*, RE Ricklefs. 2008.  Rates of nucleotide substitution in Cornaceae (Cornales) - pattern of variation and underlying causal factors. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 49: 327–342.
  • Krings*, A., D, T, Thomas*, and (J) QY Xiang.  2008. On the generic circumscription of Gonolobus (Apocynaceae:Asclepiadoideae): evidence from molecules and morphology. Systematic Botany 33:403-415.
  • Xiang QY(J) and DT Thomas*. 2008. Tracking character evolution and biogeographic history through time in Cornaceae – Does choice of methods matter?  Journal of Systematics and Evolution. 46: 349-374.
  • Zhang*, WH, QY (J) Xiang, DT Thomas*, BM Wiegmann, MW Frohlich and DE Soltis. 2008. Molecular evolution of PISTILLATA-like genes in the dogwood genus Cornus (Cornaceae). Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution. 47:175-195. 
  • Thomas*,DT, AR. Ahedor, CF Williams, C DePamphilis, DJ Crawford, QY(J) Xiang. 2008. Microsatellite analysis of a broad hybrid zone in Aesculus (Sapindales) – Inferences in genetic structure and evolution. International Journal of Plant Sciences. 169: 647-657.

(Asterisks * indicate students, postdocs, visiting scholars, or technicians mentored or hosted.)