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Where the wild veggies are
Date:7/20/2010

Sites of origin and regions of domestication of many of our most important cultivated plants are still unknown. The botanical genus Cucumis, to which both the cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and the honeydew melon (C. melo) belong, was long thought to have originated and diversified in Africa, because many wild species of Cucumis are found there. "A molecular genetic analysis has now shown that the wild populations that gave rise to melons and cucumbers originated in Asia", says LMU botanist Professor Susanne Renner. "In addition, we have found that 25 related species which have never been formally described are found in Asia, Australia and regions around the Indian Ocean." Future genetic studies on <C. sativus and its wild relatives should therefore focus on Asia and Australia. The new results are important because the garden cucumber is one of the most widely cultivated vegetable crops, and the species is among the few flowering plants whose genomes have been fully sequenced. According to Renner, "Our study would not have been possible without the resources of the Munich herbarium and Botanical Garden. A large fraction of the plants we have been able to sequence was collected in India, Vietnam and Australia during the 19th century, and most were then forgotten in herbaria, that is, collections of dried plant specimens. Many of these come from locations that no longer have natural vegetation, for example, because they were collected at sites that now lie in built-up areas of cities like Hanoi." (PNAS online, July 2010)

The family Cucurbitaceae includes crop plants, such cucumbers, melons, loofah, and pumpkins. In terms of its economic importance, the cucumber is among the top ten crop plants cultivated worldwide, and the related honeydew melon is also of considerable agronomic significance. Species that belong to the genus Cucumis are also popular with botanical researchers. Indeed, the domestic cucumber was
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Contact: Professor Susanne Renner
renner@lrz.uni-muenchen.de
49-891-786-1257
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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