Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biology/Molecular, Cellular, and Organismal Biology

First Advisor

Rick V. Kesseli

Second Advisor

Michael Shiaris

Third Advisor

Adan Colón-Carmona


Domestication can be viewed as an end-point of a long process that starts with human selection of wild plants. Cultivation of these plants results in a fixation of favored morphological and genetic differences distinguishing a domesticate from its wild progenitor. A subset of weeds and invasives has evolved from domesticated ancestors. The current flora of New England consists of both native and non-native species. Nonindigenous plants have been introduced since first Europeans landed in North America in the 15th century.

Cichorium intybus (chicory) represents a model of wild-weedy-domesticated species, owing its genetic variety to the outcrossing nature. Although the entire genus is comprised of only six species, Cichorium is very diverse in that it includes both self-pollinating annuals and self-incompatible perennials. The purpose of this study was to develop and utilize microsatellite markers to assess the genetic diversity between and within populations of the wild and domesticated accessions, with the expectation of providing the genetic profiles and markers for the studies in the genera Cichorium and Centaurea. My analysis helps to elucidate the invasion history of chicory into the U.S. and the role wild species C. calvum and C. pumilum played in the domestication of C. endivia (endive).

I also investigated hybridization between Centaurea (knapweed) species Centaurea stoebe and C. jacea in an isolated setting, on the island of Nantucket. The analysis of nuclear DNA with microsatellite markers revealed the role of gene flow and phenotypic plasticity in an invasion success of these species.


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