Location and Phones: 

Life Sciences Building, Room 330 
1000 W Cary Street 
Ph#: [1] 804-828-0773 
FAX: [1] 804-828-0503 

  Mailing Address: 

Department of Biology 
Virginia Commonwealth University 
P. O. Box 842012 
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2012 USA

Sium suave Trevesia sundaica Heracleum sphondilium Plerandra victoriae Eryngium spinalbum Osmoxylon orientale


        Our lab uses molecular approaches to understand evolutionary patterns and processes in plants.  The primary focus of our research is to examine the evolution, biogeography, and systematics of the angiosperm order Apiales, which comprises two families:  Apiaceae (the parsley or carrot family) and Araliaceae (the ginseng or English ivy family). Also of interest are the lineages related to Apiales (e.g., Pittosporaceae, Melanophylla, Aralidium, Toricellia, Griselinia).  Apiaceae and Araliaceae represent one of the most troubling examples of the "Family-Pair Dilemma," i.e., a series of family pairs in which one family is mostly temperate and herbaceous, whereas the other is mostly tropical and woody. Evolutionary relationships within these family pairs have been difficult to resolve due to large amounts of parallel and convergent evolution of morphological characters (presumably due to repeated migrations of tropical lineages into the North temperate zones). In the order Apiales, this problem is compounded by difficulties at almost every taxonomic level, from species circumscriptions to the placement of this order among the higher dicots.  Together with collaborators, we have used DNA sequencing data from several chloroplast and nuclear markers, as well as restriction site analysis to reconstruct the evolutionary history of these groups.
        In addition, we are also working on several local projects here in Virginia including studies of population genetics (using RAPD and allozyme analyses) and floristics.

Principle Investigator:

Dr. Greg Plunkett 

Systematics, evolution, and biogeography of Apiales (Araliaceae + Apiaceae)

[e-mail] [web page]

Current Graduate Students:

Pedro Fiaschi

Ph.D. Dissertation: Phylogenetics of the Didymopanax group of Schefflera (Araliaceae).


Antoine Nicolas

Ph.D. Dissertation: Deeper-level relationships of Apiales, and Speciation Patterns in Myodocarpus (Myodocarpaceae).


Manish Patel

M.S. Thesis: Systematics of Polyscias sect. Tieghemopanax (Araliaceae), with an emphasis on P. dioica.


Lab Alumni:

Former Post-doctoral Fellow:

Former Post-doctoral Fellow:

Dr. Greg Chandler

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Univ. of North Carolina at Wilmingiton.

Post-doctoral Research: Deeper-level relationships in Apiales using 26S nrDNA sequences.

Doctoral Research: Systematics of Gastrolobium (Fabaceae)

[e-mail] [web page at UNCW]

Former Graduate Students:

Jonathan Eibl (M.S., 2000)

Thesis Research

Molecular and morphological systematics of Polyscias section Teighemopanax (Araliaceae).


Jill Reid (M.S., 2001)

Thesis Research:

Molecular Systematics of the heterosprous fern genus Azolla.

Ninh Vu (M.S., 2001)

Thesis Research

Molecular systematics of Indian Ocean basin Polyscias (Araliaceae)

Gary Jones (M.S., 2002)

Thesis Research: 

Population genetics of the invasive grass Phragmites australis on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.


Taylor Sprenkle (M.S., 2002)

Thesis Research: 

Molecular systematics of the tribe Myodocarpeae (Araliaceae).



Steve Pinney (M.S., 2002)

Thesis Research: 

Molecular systematics of the angiosperm family Pittosporaceae.

Undergraduate Student Researchers:

Brandan Willis, Casey Seelig, Jason Noel, Maria Kunk, Paola Moncada, Samual Nokuri, & Michele Burke.

Related Site: Greg Plunkett's Homepage and his Curriculum Vitae (including a list of publications)

Last Updated: August 12, A.D. 2006.
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