Skip to main content Accessibility help

Genetic Diversity of an Alien Invasive Plant Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) in China

  • Jing Yang (a1), Ling Tang (a1), Ya-Li Guan (a2) and Wei-Bang Sun (a1)


Mexican sunflower is a native species of North and Central America that was introduced into China early last century, but it has widely naturalized and become a harmful invasive plant in tropical and subtropical regions in South China. Inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers were employed to assess genetic diversity and variation in Mexican sunflower populations from China and neighboring regions. The karyotypes of populations were also studied. Our research showed high levels of genetic diversity in all populations. The lowest genetic diversity estimates were represented in two populations in Laos, suggesting prevention of new introductions into Laos is critical. Partitioning of genetic variance revealed that genetic variation was mostly found within populations, and unweighted pair group method with arithmetic means (UPGMA) analysis showed that the introductions into China and Laos were independent. There were no obvious correlations between genetic relationships and geographic distance of populations in China, consistent with the human associated dispersal history of Mexican sunflower. Previous cytological data and our chromosome count (2n = 34) and karyotype analysis showed chromosome stability among populations. The high levels of genetic diversity within invasive Mexican sunflower populations could be challenging for its management in China, and further expansion and potential negative effects on ecological systems of this plant should be monitored.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author's E-mail:


Hide All
Abdelkrim, J., Pascal, M., and Samadi, S. 2007. Establishing causes of eradication failure based on genetics: case study of ship rat eradication in Ste. Anne archipelago. Conserv. Biol. 21:719730.
Alcorces de Guerra, N., Larez, A., and Mayz, J. 2007. Additions to the cytogenetic knowledge of Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) A. Gray (Asteraceae). Acta. Bot. Venez. 30:267275.
Cai, H., Qian, L. S., Zhang, L., and Wei, C. L. 2006. Chromosome variation and karyotype analysis of invasive weed Sorghum halepense L. J. Nucl. Agric. Sci. 20:490493.
Chukwuka, K. S., Ogunyemi, S., and Fawole, I. 2007. Ecological distribution of Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl). A. Gray—a new exotic weed in Nigeria. J. Biol. Sci. 7:709719.
Dawson, W., Mndolwa, A. S., Burslem, D., and Hulme, P. E. 2008. Assessing the risks of plant invasions arising from collections in tropical botanical gardens. Biodivers. Conserv. 17:19791995.
Dlugosch, K. M. and Parker, I. M. 2008. Founding events in species invasions: genetic variation, adaptive evolution, and the role of multiple introductions. Mol. Ecol. 17:431449.
Dodet, M., Petit, R. J., and Gasquez, J. 2008. Local spread of the invasive Cyperus esculentus (Cyperaceae) inferred using molecular genetic markers. Weed Res. 48:1927.
Doyle, J. 1991. DNA protocols for plants—CTAB total DNA isolation. Pages 283293 in Hewitt, G. M. and Johnston, A., eds. Molecular Techniques in Taxonomy. Berlin Springer-Verlag.
Excoffier, L., Laval, G., and Schneider, S. 2005. Arlequin (version 3.0): an integrated software package for population genetics data analysis. Evol. Bioinformatics. 1:4750.
Excoffier, L., Smouse, P. E., and Quattro, J. M. 1992. Analysis of molecular variance inferred from metric distances among DNA haplotypes: application to human mitochondrial DNA restriction data. Genetics. 131:479491.
Facon, B., Pointier, J. P., Glaubrecht, M., Poux, C., Jarne, P., and David, P. 2003. A molecular phylogeography approach to biological invasions of the New World by parthenogenetic Thiarid snails. Mol. Ecol. 12:30273039.
Fisher, R. A. 1930. The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Oxford, UK Clarendon Press. 291 p.
Franklin, I. R. 1980. Evolutionary change in small populations. Pages 135150 in Soule, M. E. and Wilcox, B. A., eds. Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary–Eecological Perspective. Sunderland, MA Sinauer Associates.
Gaudeul, M., Giraud, T., Kiss, L., and Shykoff, J. A. 2011. Nuclear and chloroplast microsatellites show multiple introductions in the worldwide invasion history of common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia . PloS ONE. 6(3):e17658.
Geng, Y. P., Pan, X. Y., Xu, C. Y., Zhang, W. J., Li, B., Chen, J. K., Lu, B. R., and Song, Z. P. 2007. Phenotypic plasticity rather than locally adapted ecotypes allows the invasive alligator weed to colonize a wide range of habitats. Biol. Invasions. 9:245256.
Goldblatt, P. and Johnson, D. E. 2012. Index to Plant Chromosome Numbers. Accessed: May 15, 2012. St. Louis, MO: Missouri Botanical Garden.
Grimsby, J. L., Tsirelson, D., Gammon, M. A., and Kesseli, R. 2007. Genetic diversity and clonal vs. sexual reproduction in Fallopia spp. (Polygonaceae). Am. J. Bot. 94:957964.
Gutierrez-Ozuna, R., Eguiarte, L. E., and Molina-Freaner, F. 2009. Genotypic diversity among pasture and roadside populations of the invasive buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link) in north-western Mexico. J. Arid Environ. 73:2632.
Hamrick, J. and Godt, M. 1996. Effects of life history traits on genetic diversity in plant species. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. London, Ser. B: Biol. Sci. 351:12911298.
Handley, L. J. L., Estoup, A., Evans, D. M., Thomas, C. E., Lombaert, E., Facon, B., Aebi, A., and Roy, H. E. 2011. Ecological genetics of invasive alien species. BioControl. 56:409428.
Henderson, L. 2001. Alien Weeds and Invasive Plants. A Complete Guide to Declared Weeds and Invaders in South Africa. Pretoria, South Africa Agricultural Research Council, Plant Protection Research Institute. 300 p.
Kang, M., Buckley, Y. M., and Lowe, A. J. 2007. Testing the role of genetic factors across multiple independent invasions of the shrub Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius). Mol. Ecol. 16:46624673.
Kirkpatrick, M. and Barton, N. H. 1997. Evolution of a species' range. Am. Nat. 150:123.
Kolbe, J. J., Glor, R. E., Schettino, L. R. G., Lara, A. C., Larson, A., and Losos, J. B. 2004. Genetic variation increases during biological invasion by a Cuban lizard. Nature. 431:177181.
Lazarides, M., Cowley, K., and Hohnen, P. 1997. CSIRO Handbook of Australian Weeds. Collingwood, Victoria, Australia CSIRO Publishing. 272 p.
Levan, A., Fredga, K., and Sandberg, A. A. 1964. Nomenclature for centromeric position on chromosomes. Hereditas. 52:201220.
Lewontin, R. C. 1972. The apportionment of human diversity. Evol. Biol. 6:381394.
Li, J. M., Dong, M., and Zhong, Z. C. 2007. Population genetic differentiations in the invasive plant Mikania micrantha in China. Acta Phytoecol. Sin. 31:680688.
Mack, R. N., Simberloff, D., Lonsdale, W. M., Evans, H., Clout, M., and Bazzaz, F. A. 2000. Biotic invasions: causes, epidemiology, global consequences, and control. Ecol. Appl. 10:689710.
Meyer, J. Y. 2000. Preliminary review of the invasive plants in the Pacific islands (SPREP Member Countries). Pages 85114 in Sherley, G., ed. Invasive Species in the Pacific: A Technical Review and Draft Regional Strategy. Apia, Samoa South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
Milligan, B. G., Leebensmack, J., and Strand, A. E. 1994. Conservation genetics—beyond the maintenance of marker diversity. Mol. Ecol. 3:423435.
Nei, M. 1987. Molecular Evolutionary Genetics. New York Columbia University Press. 512 p.
Nei, M. and Li, W. H. 1979. Mathematical model for studying genetic variation in terms of restriction endonucleases. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 76:52695273.
O'Hanlon, P. C., Peakall, R., and Briese, D. T. 2000. A review of new PCR-based genetic markers and their utility to weed ecology. Weed Res. 40:239254.
Oyerinde, R. O., Otusanya, O. O., and Akpor, O. B. 2009. Allelopathic effect of Tithonia diversifolia on the germination, growth and chlorophyll contents of maize (Zea mays L.). Sci. Res. Essays. 4:15531558.
Ren, M. X., Li, X. Q., and Ding, J. Q. 2010. Genetic variation and spread pattern of invasive Conyza sumatrensis around China's Three Gorges Dam. Acta Oecol.—Internat. J. Ecol. 36:599603.
Roman, J. and Darling, J. A. 2007. Paradox lost: genetic diversity and the success of aquatic invasions. Trends Ecol. Evol. 22:454464.
Sakai, A. K., Allendorf, F. W., Holt, J. S., Lodge, D. M., Molofsky, J., With, K. A., Baughman, S., Cabin, R. J., Cohen, J. E., Ellstrand, N. C., McCauley, D. E., O'Neil, P., Parker, I. M., Thompson, J. N., and Weller, S. G. 2001. The population biology of invasive species. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 32:305332.
Schaal, B. A., Gaskin, J. F., and Caicedo, A. L. 2003. Phylogeography, haplotype trees, and invasive plant species. J. Hered. 94:197204.
Slotta, T. A. B., Rothhouse, J. M., Horvath, D. P., and Foley, M. E. 2006. Genetic diversity of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in North Dakota. Weed Sci. 54:10801085.
Stebbins, G. L. 1971. Chromosomal Evolution in Higher Plants. London Edward Arnold, Ltd. 220 p.
Tang, S. Q., Wei, F., Zeng, L. Y., Li, X. K., Tang, S. C., Zhong, Y., and Geng, Y. P. 2009. Multiple introductions are responsible for the disjunct distributions of invasive Parthenium hysterophorus in China: evidence from nuclear and chloroplast DNA. Weed Res. 49:373380.
Tongma, S., Kobayashi, K., and Usui, K. 1998. Allelopathic activity of Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) in soil. Weed Sci. 46:432437.
Tongma, S., Kobayashi, K., and Usui, K. 1999. Allelopathic activity and movement of water leachate from Mexican sunflower [Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) A. Gray] leaves in soil. J. Weed Sci. Technol. 44:5158.
Varnham, K. 2006. Non-native Species in UK Overseas Territories: A Review. Joint Nature Conservation Committee Report No. 372. Peterborough, UK JNCC. 35 p.
Verlaque, R., Affre, L., Diadema, K., Suehs, C. M., and Medail, F. 2011. Unexpected morphological and karyological changes in invasive Carpobrotus (Aizoaceae) in Provence (S-E France) compared to native South African species. C. R. Biol. 334:311319.
Wang, S. H., Sun, W. B., and Cheng, X. 2004. Attributes of plant proliferation, geographic spread and the natural communities invaded by the naturalized alien plant species Tithonia diversifolia in Yunnan, China. Acta Ecol. Sin. 24:444449.
Wang, S. H., Sun, W. B., and Xiao, C. 2008. Reproductive characteristics of Tithonia diversifolia and its geographical spread in Yunnan Province of South-West China. Acta Bot. Sin. 28:13071313.
Wang, X. L. and Li, M. X. 1987. Observation of chromosomes of 10 Compositae species. J. Wuhan Bot. R. 5:111117.
Ward, S. M. 2006. Molecular marker and DNA sequencing methods. Pages 347369 in Motley, T. J., and Cross, H., eds. Darwin's Harvest. New York Columbia University Press.
Ward, S. M., Gaskin, J. F., and Wilson, L. M. 2008a. Ecological genetics of plant invasion: What do we know? Invasive Plant Sci. Manag. 1:98109.
Ward, S. M., Reid, S. D., Harrington, J., Sutton, J., and Beck, K. G. 2008b. Genetic variation in invasive populations of yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) in the western United States. Weed Sci. 56:394399.
Wright, S. 1931. Evolution in Mendelian populations. Genetics. 16:97159.
Wright, S. 1984. Evolution and the Genetics of Populations. Volume 4. Variability Within and Among Natural Populations. Chicago, IL University of Chicago Press. 590 p.
Xie, Z. Y. and Zheng, C. M. 2003. Cytological studies on 13 species of Compositae from Hainan, China. Acta Phytotaxon. Sin. 41:545552.
Xu, C. D., Yang, X., and Lu, S. G. 2007. The invasive plant Tithonia diversifolia in China. Guihaia. 27:564569.
Yeh, F., Yang, R., Boyle, T. B. J., Ye, Z., and Mao, J. 1997. POPGENE, the User-Friendly Shareware for Population Genetic Analysis. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Centre, University of Alberta, Canada.∼fyeh/popgene_download.html Accessed: May 1, 2011.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed