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DNA barcoding provides a relatively new method for identifying species using short DNA sequences. A region of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene has been validated as a useful DNA barcode for most animal species, but plant identification using this method has been more challenging. In this study we tested three plastid DNA regions (matK, trnH-psbA, and rbcL) for their suitability as DNA barcoding regions. We chose two groups of three common tree species each to perform our experiment, with each group containing two native species and one invasive species. The first group contained three congeneric species: red maple, sugar maple, and Norway maple and the second group contained three more distantly related, but morphologically similar species: staghorn sumac, white ash, and tree of heaven. Our sequence analysis showed that rbcL displayed the robustness required for DNA barcodes. We suggest that a tiered-approach for DNA barcoding, involving analysis of rbcL followed by matK may be the best method. Within our two groups, species identification was successful, but further analysis is needed to assess the utility of DNA barcoding to distinguish in general invasive plant species from native plant species. Our results indicate that more than one DNA barcode may be needed to clearly and correctly identify land plants.

Academic Division



Life Sciences | Plant Sciences