• Paraphyly of the genus Boehmeria (Urticaceae): a response to Liang et al. ‘Relationships among Chinese Boehmeria species and the evolution of various clade’

      Monro, Alexandre; Dodsworth, Steven; Fu, Long‑Fei; Friis, Ib; Wilmot-Dear, Christine M.; Maurin, Olivier; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; University of Bedfordshire; Chinese Academy of Sciences; Natural History Museum of Denmark (Springer, 2020-12-19)
      Boehmeria, as currently circumscribed, comprises 52 species and has a pantropical distribution. Liang et al. propose a sectional classification of Boehmeria based on the phylogenetic analysis of SNP data for 20 species and an additional 10 subspecific taxa of these at the rank of variety or form. They restrict their sampling to species documented in China. We found many shortcomings in the sampling and analyses which we feel have resulted in a misleading phylogeny for the genus and the economically important fibre-plant, Boehmeria nivea. By sampling only Chinese species of this genus for their in-group and using a single distantly related outgroup, Liang et al. have failed to capture the diversity of the genus and so erroneously concluded that it forms a monophyletic group. Previous published research clearly demonstrates that Boehmeria is paraphyletic and polyphyletic, comprising at least four monophyletic groupings most closely related to several genera within the Boehmerieae. For these reasons, the sections that Liang et al. (Ind Crops Prod 148:112092, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indcrop.2020.112092) propose for Boehmeria are not effective tools for its classification. The important fibre-plant, Boehmeria nivea, should therefore not be considered as part of the genus Boehmeria for the purposes of crop breeding, but as sister to Archiboehmeria. Breeding programmes for ramie should therefore focus on populations and germplasm of Archiboehmeria atrata. We conclude that poor taxon sampling, overlooking relevant molecular and taxonomic literature, internal conflict within their SNP data and the overinterpretation of low support values has resulted in the erroneous conclusion that Boehmeria represents a monophyletic or ‘natural’ genus.