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Pedicularis is a Hemiparasitic plants with approximately 600 species, distributed from wetter northern temperate zones to South America. The highest diversity lies in eastern Asia, with 352 species accepted in China alone. 

Scientists from the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography (XIEG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently identified a Pedicularis species that appeared around the year of 2000 and  spread desperately within and around Bayanbulak Grassland of Xinjiang, and further determined its disjunctive distribution. 

“The species occurs at high densities and results in significant biomass reductions in forage grasses. This poses severe threat to the development of local livestock husbandry and the ecological balance of grassland.” said GUAN Kaiyun, researcher from XIEG. 

The species was previously identified as P. verticillata L., however, through DNA barcoding technology, GUAN and his colleagues found that the species at Bayanbulak Grassland is actually P. kansuensis Maxim.. 

“The presence of P. kansuensis in the Tianshan region can be traced to the northeastern fringes of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau,” explained GUAN. 

Their study further explained why the species came to settle in the Tianshan region across a vast area of arid land. “The present disjunct distribution in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and the Tianshan Region is likely the result of multiple bird or human assisted long-distance seed dispersal events crossing the arid land of Tarim Basin,” said GUAN. 

The studies were published on Journal of Arid Land and Plos One entitled “Identity and distribution of weedy Pedicularis kansuensis Maxim. (Orobanchaceae) in Tianshan Mountains of Xinjiang: morphological, anatomical and molecular evidence” and “Long-Distance Dispersal after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) Led to the Disjunctive Distribution of Pedicularis kansuensis (Orobanchaceae) between the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and Tianshan Region” respectively. 

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