New germplasm from Dylan’s 2015 field work

As many of you know, I was tasked with collecting wild populations of Helianthus annuus, H. petiolaris, and H. argophyllus from across the geographic range of the species, for use in the abiotic stress adaptation project. Over a three month period, I drove more than 30,000 miles and collected at 145 Helianthus localities in 15 western states. I found a lot of really interesting plants, including what might be several new species. In future posts, I’ll talk some more about the trip, and what I found.

The seeds are now here. They are cleaned and packaged in individual envelopes numbered by population and mother plant. I cleaned the seeds in Ames, Iowa at the UDSA facility, so they are high quality, ready to go. All of the seeds are now part of the seed collection in our lab in the Biodiversity building. The new seeds have been added to the permanent database of seeds for the whole lab. But I also put a copy of my complete notes here. My notes give details about where the plants were collected, their ecology, etc. I’ll be putting printed data in the boxes with the seeds as well, just in case the zombie apocalypse arrives and these electronic data go dark. I also plan to post photos of each population I visited, but that’s down the line. For now, the seeds are here, so if you need to access any of them for a project, the data linked to this post should help you do that. If you happen to use any of these plants in a project, please note that voucher specimens were deposited in the herbarium at Indiana University (herbarium code: IU).

If you need to contact me about these seeds, and you have no idea who I am or where I am located, here is my “permanent” email address, which should also last for some time.


Sample Information Table

There is a constant problem of record keeping in the lab, and it is the most annoying in regards to sequence data. We have lots of data but finding out exactly what plants the data came from is difficult. So, I’m taking the old sample information table Seb made years ago and making it mandatory.

You must fill out this form before you get access to your sequence data. There will be one row per sample, meaning that for a GBS library you will have 96 or 192 rows.

Sample information table

Sunflower seed sterilization

Hi all,

Here is a seed sterilization protocol that surprised me – No fungus visible after 4 -5 days of growth on nutritious media.

In 100 ml distilled water mix the following

1 g sparkleen soap powder (dish washing stuff) –> This is the top end for sparkleen.  You may need to use less.
2 mL bleach (final concentration = 2%)
2 ml PPM. (final concentration = 2%)

Sterilize in 15 ml tubes.

Rinse seeds  with autoclaved water 3x.

Results: Normally the first image would contain many fungal blooms.  Not so in the images below.

Friday November 21st



Monday November 26thWP_20131125_001

Introducing Phoebanthus, Sibling to Sunflower

Before I left UBC to head to California, Rose and I got interested in looking closely at the nearest relatives of Sunflower. In particular, Rose was looking to obtain an “outgroup” for her analyses of cpDNA phylogeny in the sunflowers. We found out that the sister-genus to sunflower is a little plant called Phoebathus, which consists of just two species, one diploid and one tetraploid. Both of them are perennials that are endemic to Florida.


Phoebanthus grandiflorus

After learning about the plant, I started looking for a way to get some samples. I learned very quickly that it’s basically not cultivated at all. So I contacted several naturalists from Florida who live near Phoebanthus country, and one of them (a gentleman named Wayne Matchett) volunteered to get us some tissue and seeds for the more common tetraploid species, Phoebanthus grandiflorus. It took a while for Wayne to locate a flowering population, and then to wait for the seed heads to mature (at my recommendation, he “bagged” the heads), but he finally managed to secure about 100 mature seeds, along with a sample of leaf tissue, both of which I am now in possession of.


Some of the seeds that Wayne got

I guess that I became obsessed with this plant because it is such an underdog compared to Helianthus. While Helianthus is a weedy, widespread, diverse, and dominant genus that has more or less conquered North America as well as the human race, the sibling genus to sunflower amounts to just two species, both of them found in what is probably the cushiest, least stringent environment in all of North America: Florida (sorry, Chris).

In any case, I’m going to apply for a permit to bring the seeds and tissue to UBC when I visit in a month or so. I might also try to keep some here in California and try growing it here to see how it performs. In addition to providing a nice outgroup for phylogenetic analyses, it might be cool to do other comparisons between the vivacious head-turner that is Helianathus, and its runty little sister genus, Phoebanthus.

In the meantime, here are some of Wayne’s photos:





Helianthus germination

Everyone in the lab seems to have their own brand of germination suited to their seed collections. If you have fresh seed Nolan’s protocol easy sunflower germination is a great place to start and germination should occur within a week (I have found this works with fresh H. paradoxus seed).

Here are is an updated version of Nolan’s germination protocol. I am working with some older Helianthus seed that takes several weeks to germinate. I have received useful advice from several lab members who are referenced within. I haven’t yet found a way to speed germination of old seed, but the emphasis here is on how to keep conditions sterile to prevent fungal infection until germination occurs. Patience is required.


Feel free to correct or add your brand of germination to this.

Seed size in H. exilis

Here is a curiosity I noticed while sorting seeds.

At one of my H. exilis sites (G136) there was a serpentine field beside a raised road. The field had a large population of tiny sunflowers, but there were also a few plants on the gravel embankment beside the road. These plants were much bigger, probably because the soil used in the embankment wasn’t serpentine. I collected seeds from both field and roadside plants.

The roadside seeds are much bigger than the serpentine seeds.

This has several possible explanations:

-Plasticity. The non-serpentine plants are much bigger, being bigger makes their seeds also larger.

-Selection. Bigger seeds are better on the disturbed habitat of the gravel embankment.

-Introgression. Gene flow from H. annuus could be coming in and only persisting on non-serpentine areas, bringing larger seed alleles.

Say hello to my little friends

It is my pleasure to introduce a new species to the Rieseberg lab: Alliaria petiolata (aka garlic mustard) is an invasive species in North America that is also widespread in Europe. Unfortunately we have had some problems with fungus and getting seeds to germinate, but we are moving forward.

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Germplasm pedigree

This is a pretty cool figure that is hard to find, I got a hard copy sent to me and scanned it. It is a pedigree of all the publically available lines of sunflower up until 1989. I plan on cleaning this image up and possibly scanning it again, I thought I would save it on here in the mean time. It looks okay if you zoom in.

It is from this paper:

Korell, M., Mosges, G., and Friedt, W., (1992) Construction of a sunflower pedigree map. Helia 15: 7-16

Helianthus neglectus collecting trip – Oct 2012 (Kate)

Recently, Kieran and I travelled to Monahans, Texas to collect Helianthus neglectus. It was a quick, fun trip in which we collected 8 dune and 10 non-dune populations. The seeds we collected are sorted and available in the lab in two boxes labelled “Helianthus neglectus – Monahans, Texas – Oct 2012″. Finally, I’ve posted the GPS coordinates and (usually) two photos for each site we collected from below. I will add more information about the habitat characteristics (vegetation cover and soil components) as it becomes available.

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