The ragwort cross is a research project which is carried out by the section Ecology and Phytochemistry of the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL). The group of researchers dedicate their work to the evolutionary ecology of the genus Senecio sl. The research is centered around a cross between Marsh ragwort (Jacobaea aquatica) and Common ragwort, (Jacobaea vulgaris).


tissue cultureEvolutionary ecology

The primary focus of evolutionary ecology is to identify and understand the evolution of key traits, by which plants are adapted to their environment, and to understand how biological variation is generated and maintained.

We, therefore, need to know how biotic and abiotic environmental factors influence:

1] The transition from genotype to phenotype;

2] The genetic and developmental constraints that play a role in generating the phenotype; and

3] How (combinations of) trait values translate to differences in success of phenotypes.


The advances in molecular Arabidopsis research are of significant importance in this respect. However, nature may have produced different solutions for the same problem and not for all ecologically interesting questions Arabidopsis is the most suitable study system.

For good reasons (evolutionary) ecologists work on quite diverse groups of species. This comes at the expense, however, of not being able to make full use of all the challenging possibilities offered by molecular and metabolomic approaches.


The ragwort cross

With the expectation that molecular techniques can be made available at an ever increasing speed for other species, we did set up an evolutionary-ecological research programme for a group of species (Senecios. The genus Senecios sl. is chosen on basis of their interest for ecologists, but at the same time offers good opportunities for molecular and metabolomic approaches.

We want to develop an exiting new integrated holistic approach combining field studies, in vivo and in vitro bioassays, molecular analysis and metabolomic studies together with setting up data bases and using the same well defined (geno)types in a great number of experiments.