Florida Museum of Natural History

University of Florida Herbarium (FLAS)

DNA Barcoding the Flora of Florida
Casuarina image Ludwigia and Eichhornia image

by J. Richard Abbott, Kurt Neubig, W. Mark Whitten, Norris Williams, and Kent Perkins

Every plant, every animal, fungus or microbe is unique. Indeed, every species has a unique combination of DNA (or "barcode") that can identify that species. This is the central premise of barcoding: to have a reference sequence of every species present in a given area so that unidentified material may be identified. The technology to sequence DNA has been around for decades now, but the application of systematically barcoding every species across all families of plants has only recently been explored. This project aims to capture those unique DNA sequences of all species of plants in Florida as a basic reference.

Because of Florida's unique range of habitats and climate, the diversity of plant life is among the highest in the United States. Unlike many experimental aspects of science, this project can have many useful and applicable facets for the people of Florida (and the U.S. in general); here are just a few applications. Identification of plants has traditionally been based on how they look (morphology). Often, material needs to be collected at a very specific time of the year so that flowers, or other reproductive parts, can be used to accurately pinpoint the identity. With DNA data, that is not necessary. A mere fragment of a leaf can be used to identify the species to which it belongs. The forensic application of being able to identify small pieces of tissue is self-evident. Scientific questions involving evolution, geographic patterns and population structure can all be addressed with DNA data.

Affiliated Projects
DNA Identification of the Invasive Plants of Florida
Final Report for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Contract Number UF 8162

Molecular Identification Of Invasive Water-Clover Ferns
Final Report for a Contract from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Additional Information
DNA Bar Codes : Plant Identification for the Future -- article from the UF/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Florida Agricultural Experiment Station 2007 Annual Research Report.