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The genus Echinacea is used as an herbal medicine to treat a variety of ailments. To better understand its potential chemical variation, 40 Echinacea accessions encompassing broad geographical and morphological diversity were evaluated under controlled conditions. Metabolites of roots from these accessions were analyzed by HPLC-photo diode array (HPLC-PDA), GC-MS, and multivariate statistical methods. In total, 43 lipophilic metabolites, including 24 unknown compounds, were detected. Weighted principal component analysis (WPCA) and clustering analysis of the levels of these metabolites across Echinacea accessions, based on Canberra distances, allowed us to test two alternative taxonomic treatments of the genus, with the further goal of facilitating accession identification. A widely used system developed by McGregor based primarily on morphological features was more congruent with the dendrogram generated from the lipophilic metabolite data than the system more recently developed by Binns et al. Our data support the hypothesis that Echinacea pallida is a diverse allopolyploid, incorporating the genomes of Echinacea simulata and another taxon, possibly Echinacea sanguinea. Finally, most recognized taxa of Echinacea can be identified by their distinct lipophilic metabolite fingerprints.
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Wu, Lankun; Dixon, Philip M.; Nikolau, Basil J.; Kraus, George A.; Widrlechner, Mark P.; and Wurtele, Eve S., "Metabolic Profiling of Echinacea Genotypes and a Test of Alternative Taxonomic Treatments" (2009). NCRPIS Publications and Papers. 3.
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