Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 130, Issue 6, pp 953–972 | Cite as

Phylogeny and biogeography of the genus Stevia (Asteraceae: Eupatorieae): an example of diversification in the Asteraceae in the new world

  • Akiko Soejima
  • Akifumi S. Tanabe
  • Izumi Takayama
  • Takayuki Kawahara
  • Kuniaki Watanabe
  • Miyuki Nakazawa
  • Misako Mishima
  • Tetsukazu Yahara
Regular Paper


The genus Stevia comprises approximately 200 species, which are distributed in North and South America, and are representative of the species diversity of the Asteraceae in the New World. We reconstructed the phylogenetic relationships using sequences of ITS and cpDNA and estimated the divergence times of the major clade of this genus. Our results suggested that Stevia originated in Mexico 7.0–7.3 million years ago (Mya). Two large clades, one with shrub species and another with herb species, were separated at about 6.6 Mya. The phylogenetic reconstruction suggested that an ancestor of Stevia was a small shrub in temperate pine–oak forests and the evolutionary change from a shrub state to a herb state occurred only once. A Brazilian clade was nested in a Mexican herb clade, and its origin was estimated to be 5.2 Mya, suggesting that the migration from North America to South America occurred after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. The species diversity in Mexico appears to reflect the habitat diversity within the temperate pine–oak forest zone. The presence of many conspecific diploid–polyploid clades in the phylogenetic tree reflects the high frequency of polyploidization among the perennial Stevia species.


Agamospermy Asteraceae Biogeography Divergence time Phylogeny Polyploidy 



We would like to thank M. Ito, T. Kajita, S. Kobayashi, T. Miyake, and K. Ooi for their help with fieldwork in Mexico; K. Oyama for logistical support in Mexico; Y. Nagatani and the late G. Hashimoto for their assistance with locating Brazilian populations of Stevia; H. Shibuya, M. Miya, and D. Honda for advice regarding statistical analyses; and E. Kamitani for assistance with DNA sequencing. We would also like to thank the following herbaria for access to herbarium materials: the National Herbarium of Mexico at the UNAM (MEXU), the University of Texas Herbarium (TEX), and the Goro Hashimoto Herbarium (São Paulo, Brazil). The present study was supported in part by a Grant in Aid for Scientific Research (No. 14405014), which was provided by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture, Japan.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1234 KB)


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Copyright information

© The Botanical Society of Japan and Springer Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Akiko Soejima
    • 1
  • Akifumi S. Tanabe
    • 2
  • Izumi Takayama
    • 3
  • Takayuki Kawahara
    • 4
  • Kuniaki Watanabe
    • 2
  • Miyuki Nakazawa
    • 3
  • Misako Mishima
    • 5
  • Tetsukazu Yahara
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological Science, Faculty of Advanced Science and TechnologyKumamoto UniversityKumamotoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Graduate School of ScienceKobe UniversityKobeJapan
  3. 3.Department of Biology, Graduate School of ScienceKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan
  4. 4.Hokkaido Research Center, Forestry and Forest Products Research InstituteSapporoJapan
  5. 5.University MuseumKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan

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