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New Genus of Plants Named After UW Botany Professor

July 10, 2017
plant growing outside
A new genus of plants has been named after UW botany Professor Greg Brown. Gregbrownia, a member of the Bromeliaceae family, is found in the Andes Mountains of northern Peru and Ecuador. Pictured here is Gregbrownia brownii, one of the four species. (Greg Brown Photo)

University of Wyoming botany Professor Greg Brown has added a new honor to his list of achievements: A new genus of plants has been named after him.

Gregbrownia is a member of the Bromeliaceae family -- commonly known as the pineapple family. The plants have a large rosette (about 1 meter in diameter) of long, strap-shaped leaves and a large cluster of flowers, ranging from yellow-green to white. The rosette of leaves also will hold a large volume of water. Members of the genus can grow either on trees or land, and are found in the Andes Mountains of northern Peru and Ecuador. 

The genus has four species: Gregbrownia brownii, Gregbrownia fulgens, Gregbrownia hutchisonii and Gregbrownia lyman-smithii.

Brown specializes in plant systematics, a branch of botany that involves the identification, naming, classification and evolution of plants. His research focuses on the Bromeliaceae family.

Two of Brown’s colleagues, Walter Till, a professor of botany at the University of Vienna, and Michael Barfuss, a research scientist at the University of Vienna, established the new genus out of an existing genus (Mezobromelia) based on new molecular (DNA sequence) and morphological (form and structure) data.

“The goal of modern plant systematics is to only name groups of species that are monophyletic (having only one origin),” Brown says. “When a researcher finds a new, well-supported monophyletic group (clade) within an already-recognized genus, the group has to receive a new name at the appropriate taxonomic rank. In the case of the species in Mezobromelia, those new species were at the generic rank.”

According to a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa, Gregbrownia was named in honor of Brown “for his essential contributions to the taxonomy and morphology of Bromeliaceae.”

“This is a tremendous, totally unexpected honor,” Brown says. “This recognition and honor become a permanent part of plant taxonomy and plant nomenclature.”


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