Department of Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution of Plants (with Herbarium)

Welcome to our department!

"Plant systematics" is one of the oldest disciplines at the University of Göttingen and is being taught there since the founding of the university in 1735.

The major research topics of our Department are evolution, phylogeny and taxonomy of flowering plants (poster). Our mission is to understand the patterns and processes of diversification of plants in space and time. We focus on evolutionary processes at the population and species level, and on interspecific relationships within genera. The role of reproductive and evelopmental biology for plant evolution is an important focus of our research. By analyzing asexual reproduction in plants we try to understand the evolutionary paradox of predominance of sex in nature. Our major model systems are Ranunculus (buttercups), Salix (willows) and Rutaceae (the citrus family). Find out more about our current research projects.

The Department is equipped with modern molecular, karyological and computer laboratories. We host an internationally renowned Herbarium (GOET) of about 800.000 specimens (including over 14,000 types) and research collections of living plants (c. 2.000).

Department members 2019

Annual Beachvolleyball event 2021


Informationen zum Lehrbetrieb und Termine dieses Semesters finden Sie im Stud.IP bei den einzelnen Lehrveranstaltungen. Persönliche Sprechstunden sind bis auf weiteres nicht möglich. Bitte kontaktieren Sie die Lehrenden per email. Abgaben von Hausarbeiten oder Protokollen bitte nur per email als pdf oder word-Files. Bitte beachten Sie die allgemeinen E-Mails des Präsidiums und regelmäßigen Updates der Homepage.

Information about the lectures and dates of this summer term you find in Stud.IP in the respective folders. Personal meetings are currently not possible. Please contact the teaching staff via email. Also homeworks and protocols should be sent exclusively as pdf or word files. Please pay attention to the general information and emails of the President's office.

Very diverse plants share similar plastid genomes

Every plant contains three genomes: The nuclear genome, the mitochondrial genome and the plastid genome. The latter is frequently used for evolutionary studies in plants, e.g., for phylogenetic or biogeographic studies. Plastid genomes differ in their variability, that is, in some plants the plastid genome bears more variable sites than in others. Additionally, plastomes of one geographic region are more similar than plastomes of distinct geographical ranges.

North American Salix sitchensis shares a very similar plastome with two European alpine species

However, a very unexpected similiraty of plastomes was recently observed in shrub willows. This group contains 350 morphologically diverse species including tiny dwarf shrubs as well as big trees. They are distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, from North America, Europe to East Asia. Despite the obvious morphological variability and distinct geographic occurences of species, their plastomes are almost identical. In their current research, Wagner et al. (2021) assembled 41 plastid genomes of genus Salix and discussed possible reasons for the observed similarity. In case you are interested in our Salix research, you are welcome to explore our project and current publications.

‘Sex sells’? – Not in polyploid plant complexes!


Polyploid plants are of tremendous evolutionary and economical importance. Recent investigations revealed that all flowering plants have undergone at least one polyploidization event during their evolutionary history. Moreover, polyploidy is frequently connected to asexual seed reproduction (apomixis), a phenomenon particularly pronounced in polyploid plant complexes. Oftenly, the asexuals tend to have larger distribution areas and/or occur at higher altitudes or latitudes compared to sexual relatives (Geographical parthenogenesis, GP). However, the complex effects of genetic features and environmental effects shaping GP of plants are still not well understood. Motivated by this fact, the Ranunculus auricomus (goldilock buttercups) working group of our department screened 7000 seeds of 1100 indivudals and 221 goldilock populations Europe-wide, analyzed their flowers, and generated genomic (33,000 loci) and environmental data.

All information were put in a self developed, complex structural equation model (SEM) accounting for all interactions and the underlining phylogenetic structure. In contrast to previous investigations, we found mainly strictly asexual (65%) followed by mixed asexual-sexual (28%, mean sexuality only 7%) and sexual (7%) populations. Sexual populations possessed full flowers whereas apomictic ones usually showed reduced flowers (see Figure). Surprisingly, sexuality was mainly positively correlated to solar radiation and isothermality, which also fits the southern distribution. We found up to three times higher heterozygosity in polyploids compared to diploids and, interestingly, revealed a previously unknown positive association between heterozygosity and temperature seasonality, suggesting a higher resistance of polyploids to more extreme climatic conditions.


Interested in more details? Please have a look in the online-available article version: Karbstein et al. (2021) or check out our current research project.

Prof. Elvira Hörandl
Tel.: 551 39 7843
Termine n. Ü.

Dr. Marc Appelhans
Tel.: 551 39 22220
Termine n. Ü.