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Photos of Ourisia flowers showing the range of form and color from throughout the range of the genus. (Photos © Heidi Meudt.)

The genus Ourisia is a member of Plantaginaceae (Albach et al. 2005) and contains 29 species in high-elevation areas of South America (15 species), Tasmania (1 species) and New Zealand (13 species). Species of Ourisia are herbaceous or suffruticose (with a slightly woody base), with five fused corolla lobes, five fused calyx lobes, a loculicidal capsule for a fruit, and numerous, tiny, reticulate seeds. The genus displays a diverse range of corolla shapes (rotate to zygomorphic) and colors, ranging from white to pink, lilac, and red, although species in Australasia all have white corollas only. Throughout its range, species of Ourisia occupy a wide range of habitats from sea level (at high latitudes) to 5000 m (in the north-central Andes), often occupying rocky, protected, wet sites.


Biogeographic distribution of Ourisia (Map © Heidi Meudt, taken from Meudt 2006).

The postdoctoral research of Heidi Meudt (NSF IRFP grant #0401830) hosted by Peter Lockhart and Phil Garnock-Jones, focused on reconstructing the evolutionary history and determining species boundaries of the twelve New Zealand species of Ourisia (Plantaginaceae), and assessing the relative impacts of potential geological, ecological and other selective forces on this genus. This research built upon Heidi's previous dissertation research on the systematics of the genus Ourisia (Meudt & Beck 2003; Meudt & Simpson 2006, 2007; Meudt 2006).

In New Zealand, Ourisia species are found on all three main islands and occupy high-elevation habitats that have existed only since the onset of mountain building (ca. 5 million years ago, MYA) and Pleistocene glaciation cycles (ca. 2 MYA). Analyses of DNA sequence data show that Ourisia dispersed once to New Zealand from South American ancestors (Meudt & Simpson 2006), and speciated during the Plesitocene, approximately 0.4-1.3 MYA (Meudt et al. 2009). These species are morphologically distinct, occupy different microhabitats, and represent a recent and rapid species radiation in New Zealand.

Phylogenetic, network and STRUCTURE and PCO-MC clustering analyses of AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) data of multiple populations for all twelve species identified a number of distinct clusters, most of which were consistent with morphological characters, thus allowing species delimitation based on several sources of data (Meudt, Lockhart & Bryant 2009). AFLP data were not as useful with respect to resolving many species relationships within the group, and the STRUCTURE analyses, which suggested some degree of admixture with most species, may help explain why the AFLP data were not entirely tree-like.


Unrooted 50% majority rule tree from Bayesian analysis of the combined AFLP dataset for all New Zealand and Australian species of Ourisia. Posterior probability values ≥50 are shown near each branch. (Figure 3 from Meudt et al. 2009).

Continued research on Ourisia includes using analyses of DNA sequence data to assess phylogeographic patterns, hybridization, speciation modes and patterns, and amount of congruence with the AFLP data and the most recent taxonomic revision (H. Meudt, P. Lockhart, P. McLenachan & S. Joly in prep.).

Ourisia references

Albach, Dirk C., Heidi M. Meudt and Bengt Oxelman. 2005. Piecing togethter the "new" Plantaginaceae. American Journal of Botany 92:297-315. Abstract

Arroyo, Mary T. Kalin and A. Peñaloza. 1990. Genetic self-compatibility in a South American species of Ourisia (Scrophulariaceae). New Zealand Journal of Botany 28: 467-470. Abstract

Hair, J.B. and Mary T. Kalin Arroyo. 1984. Contributions to a chromosome atlas of the New Zealand flora--28. New Zealand Journal of Botany 22: 357-359. Abstract

Meudt, Heidi M. 2010. Ten years of studying the biogeography, phylogeny, and taxonomy of Ourisia: A research synopsis. Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin 52: 32-37.

Meudt, Heidi M., Peter J. Lockhart, and David Bryant. 2009. Species delimitation and phylogeny of a New Zealand plant species radiation. BMC Evolutionary Biology 9:111. Abstract

Meudt, Heidi M., and Beryl B. Simpson. 2007. Phylogenetic analysis of morphological characters in Ourisia (Plantaginaceae): Taxonomic and evolutionary implications. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 94(4):554-570. Abstract

Meudt, Heidi M. 2006. Update on the systematics and biogeography of Ourisia, with special reference to the New Zealand species. Trilepidea 33:3-4.

Meudt, Heidi M. 2006. A revision of the genus Ourisia (Plantaginaceae). Systematic Botany Monographs 77: 1-188. Purchase here

Meudt, Heidi M. and Beryl B. Simpson. 2006. The biogeography of subalpine, austral Ourisia (Plantaginaceae) based on molecular phylogenetic evidence: South American origin and dispersal to New Zealand and Tasmania. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 87: 479-513. Abstract

Meudt, Heidi M. and Stephan G. Beck. 2003. Ourisia cotapatensis (Scrophulariaceae s.l.): A new species from Bolivia. Lundellia 6:97-112. Abstract

Schlessman, Mark A. 1986. Floral protogyny, self-compatibility and the pollination of Ourisia macrocarpa (Scrophulariaceae). New Zealand Journal of Botany 24: 651-656. Abstract

Watson, John. 1994. An overwhelming vote for the wets: Ourisia. Quarterly Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Society 62: 296-300.

Watson, John. 2005. Elusive Ourisia. The Plantsman 4(2): 96-99. Abstract

Topic revision: r12 - 2010-12-29 - HeidiMeudt
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