Ben Grady

T.A. for Vascular Flora of Wisconsin - Section 302

Office Hours: by appointment 

258 Birge Hall, 262-4422 

My doctoral research will address the role various soil types play in the speciation of a recently radiated genus within the Polygonaceae, Eriogonum. Eriogonum, commonly known as buckwheat, is a large genus (~250 species) occurring mostly in alpine or desert regions of western North America. There are many rare species of buckwheats and a number of these are limited to a specific substrate (e.g. serpentine, gypsum, limestone, etc.). What allows this group to survive/thrive in soils that most other plant species can not tolerate? Does Eriogonum possess a generalized genome that allows it to “make it” on these difficult substrates, or has tolerance to these various soils evolved numerous times within the genus? These topics, as well as other biogeographic questions, will be investigated by using molecular phylogenetic methods in conjunction with various tests of physical and chemical properties of soil. Initial field studies have proved fruitful and promising. The study of edaphic endemism in Eriogonum promises to be an enlightening and exciting endeavor.