Unraveling the biogeographic origins of the Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) invasion in North America

Michael L. Moody, Nayell Palomino, Philip S.R. Weyl, Julie A. Coetzee, Raymond M. Newman, Nathan E. Harms, Xing Liu, Ryan A. Thum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Using phylogeographic analyses to determine the geographic origins of biological invaders is important for identifying environmental adaptations and genetic composition in their native range as well as biocontrol agents among indigenous herbivores. Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) and its hybrid with northern watermilfoil (M. sibiricum) are found throughout the contiguous United States and southern Canada, forming one of the most economically costly aquatic plant invasions in North America, yet the geographic origin of the invasion remains unknown. The objectives of our study included determining the geographic origin of Eurasian watermilfoil in North America as well as the maternal lineage of the hybrids. M ETHODS: DNA sequence data from a cpDNA intron and the nrDNA ITS region were compiled for accessions from 110 populations of Eurasian watermilfoil and hybrids from North America and the native range (including Europe, Asia, and Africa). Datasets were analyzed using statistical parsimony and Bayesian phylogenetics to assess the geographic origin of the invasion. KEY RESULTS: The two Eurasian watermilfoil cpDNA haplotypes in North America are also found from China and Korea, but not elsewhere in the native range. These haplotypes did not overlap and were limited in native geographic range. The ovule parent for hybrids can come from either parental lineage, and multiple haplotypes from both parental species were found. CONCLUSIONS: The geographic origin of this prolific aquatic plant invasion of North America is in Asia. This provides critical information to better understand the invasion pathway and inform management into the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-718
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Botanical Society of America.


  • Aquatic plant
  • Biocontrol
  • Eurasian watermilfoil
  • Hybrid
  • Invasion pathway
  • Invasive plant
  • M yriophyllum spicatum
  • Myriophyllum sibiricum
  • Phylogeography


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