Testing the reliability of standard and complementary DNA barcodes for the monocot subfamily Alooideae from South Africa

Barnabas H. Daru, Michelle Van Der Bank, Abubakar Bello, Kowiyou Yessoufou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Although a standard DNA barcode has been identified for plants, it does not always provide species-level specimen identifications for investigating important ecological questions. In this study, we assessed the species-level discriminatory power of standard (rbcLa + matK) and complementary barcodes (ITS1 and trnH-psbA) within the subfamily Alooideae (Asphodelaceae), a large and recent plant radiation, whose species are important in horticulture yet are threatened. Alooideae has its centre of endemism in southern Africa, with some outlier species occurring elsewhere in Africa and Madagascar. We sampled 360 specimens representing 235 species within all 11 genera of the subfamily. With three distance-based methods, all markers performed poorly for our combined data set, with the highest proportion of correct species-level specimen identifications (30%) found for ITS1. However, when performance was assessed across genera, the discriminatory power varied from 0% for all single markers and combinations in Gasteria to 63% in Haworthiopsis, again for ITS1, suggesting that DNA barcoding success may be related to the evolutionary history of the lineage considered. Although ITS1 could be a good barcode for Haworthiopsis, the generally poor performance of all markers suggests that Alooideae remains a challenge. As species boundaries within Alooideae remain controversial, we call for continued search for suitable markers or the use of genomics approaches to further explore species discrimination in the group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-347
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Asphodelaceae
  • Barcode candidates
  • Barcoding gap
  • DNA barcoding
  • Specimen identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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