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A little about  Memecylon.....Occupying a wide range of habitats, paleotropical Memecylon (Melastomataceae) stands out to be a fascinating woody plant group. It contains ~350 species. The diversity of Memecylon is concentrated in tropical Africa, Indo-Malaysian region, China, Australia to Fiji Islands, but most are regionally or even locally endemic. Their attractive flowers give them a horticultural value. Some species such as M. capitellatum, M. umbellatum, M. edule, M. parvifolium etc. are known for their medicinal uses. 

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A bioinformatic pipeline to capture low-copy nuclear loci of melastomes

Melastomataceae is a large clade that has limited genomic resources. We designed a two-tier bioinformatic approach for phylogenomic studies in distantly related Memecylon and Tibouchina (Melastomataceae) for target capture (Jantzen & Amarasinghe et al, 2020). This work is a collaboration with Dr. Johanna Jantzen (Soltis lab) who works on an elegant plant group Tibouchina.

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Memecylon evolution at global-scale

We focused on the molecular phylogeny of Memecylon in a global context using low-copy-nuclear loci. Additionally, we investigated the morphology and distribution of Memecylon to reconstruct its ancestral states (Amarasinghe et al, 2021). 

Putative reticulation in a South African Memecylon clade?

Memecylon natalense, M. bachmannii, and M. australisimum in South Africa are morphologically distinct, spatially isolated, and differ in flowering periods, but nuclear rDNA spacer sequences (ITS and ETS) were found to be identical in a previous study. By integrating phylogenomics, network analyses, cytological techniques, and admixture analyses we found evidence for putative reticulation of this group. 

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Distribution models for Sri Lankan Memecylon

A part of the Sri Lankan endemic flora element is represented by Memecylon (i.e., 25/32 Memecylon are endemic). They are distributed in arid, dry, wet, and intermediate zones of the island. We used Memecylon to understand its niche dynamics under current climate and future climate change scenarios and determined the conservation priorities.