Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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taxonomy, nomenclature, systematics, phylogenetics, Plumeria, Caribbean Islands, tropical islands, Neotropics
Date of Defense
Plumeria L. (Apocynaceae) is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs that are often cultivated in tropical gardens worldwide. The majority of its species occur in the Greater Antilles with many as single-island endemics. The only comprehensive revision for the genus was done by Robert E. Woodson Jr. (1937) who recognized only seven species and created a ‘Plumeria obtusa complex’ with a plethora of synonyms. The first study provides an overview of the Caribbean Island members of the genus with a focus on Plumeria filifolia Griseb., a thin-leaved species endemic to Cuba that is featured because of its incredible ornamental potential. The second study presents a comprehensive nomenclatural treatment for the 49 Caribbean Island-occurring taxa of Plumeria. New lectotypifications are presented for 29 species; one neotype and three epitypes are assigned. This contribution provides the first exhaustive list of typifications for the genus. The third is a phylogenetic study derived from the chloroplast genome. Eleven plastid Plumeria genomes and one closely related outgroup (Himatanthus sp.) were generated using long-PCR and next-generation sequencing techniques. Phylogenies were constructed using parsimony and Bayesian analyses of the nucleotide sequences. Sampling was representative of each island where the genus occurs, included three mainland occurring species, and represented substantial morphological diversity. Our analyses strongly supported Plumeria as monophyletic but found P. obtusa as recognized by Woodson as paraphyletic. The phylogenetic relationships indicate patterns of adaptive radiation with ecological shifts within these island-based clades.
The studies that comprise my dissertation were conducted within the graduate study program developed between Florida International University and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG). Botanic gardens offer unique settings for collaboration with universities and other research institutions, filling a niche in connecting plant science, living and reference collections, horticulture, in situ and ex situ conservation and public outreach. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is uniquely situated in Miami, Florida and is the only botanical garden in the continental United States where tropical plants can grow outside year round. As such, FTBG’s Plumeria collection was utilized throughout the research.
Previously Published In
Tiernan, N.M., R. Oviedo, B. Jestrow, and J. Francisco-Ortega. 2020. Plumeria filifolia. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 37: 47–90.
Tiernan, Nichole M., "Taxonomy and Systematics of Plumeria L. (Apocynaceae) in the Caribbean Islands" (2021). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4806.
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