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Luping Qu, Xiping Wang, Eatherley Hood, Meihua Wang and Richard Scalzo

Chromosome karyotypes of the most commonly cultivated and medicinally used Echinacea taxa, E. angustifolia DC. var. angustifolia and E. purpurea (L.) Moench., were analyzed. The chromosomes of both taxa are medium in length, ranging from 4.12 to 5.83 μm in E. angustifolia var. angustifolia and 3.99 to 6.08 μm in E. purpurea. No abrupt length changes in the chromosomes were noted. The karyotypes of the two species are generally similar, but a distinguishable feature exists in one pair of chromosomes. The centromere of chromosome pair 10 is subterminally located in E. purpurea, but terminally located in E. angustifolia var. angustifolia, which can be readily recognized in mitotic metaphase cell plates. This finding may provide useful information for Echinacea evolutionary, genetic, and breeding studies.

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Luping Qu, Xiping Wang, Jinghua Yang, Eatherley Hood and Richard Scalzo

Seeds from five lots each of Echinacea angustifolia DC and E. pallida (Nutt.) Nutt. were germinated in a growth chamber in light (40 μmol·m-2·s-1) or darkness at 25 °C for 16 to 20 days after soaking in 1 mm ethephon or water for 10 minutes or moist stratification at 4 - 6 °C for 2 weeks. Either light or ethephon promoted seed germination of E. angustifolia and E. pallida compared with darkness in nine of ten lots. Ethephon in the dark had similar or greater germination percentages than water with light. Ethephon with light improved germination in three of ten lots compared with ethephon in the dark. The effect of cold, moist stratification compared with darkness varied by seed lot. Five lots of E. purpurea (L.) Moench were tested, however, no treatment differences were measured. The finding that ethethon promoted E. angustifolia and E. pallida seed germination in darkness could be useful in the cultivation of these two species. Chemical name used: 2-chloroethylphosphonic acid (ethephon).

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Luping Qu, Ying Chen, Xiping Wang, Richard Scalzo and Jeanine M. Davis

We investigated patterns of variation in alkamides and cichoric acid accumulation in the roots and aboveground parts of Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench. These phytochemicals were extracted from fresh plant parts with 60% ethanol and quantified by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis. Concentrations of alkamides and cichoric acid were measured on a dry-weight basis (mg·g–1). For total alkamides, concentrations among individual plants varied from 5.02 to 27.67 (mean = 14.4%) in roots, from 0.62 to 3.42 (mean = 1.54) in nearly matured seed heads (NMSH), and 0.22 to 5.25 (mean = 0.77) in young tops (about ½ flower heads, ¼ leaves, and ¼ stems). For cichoric acid, concentrations among individual plants varied from 2.65 to 37.52 (mean = 8.95), from 2.03 to 31.58 (mean = 10.9), and from 4.79 to 38.55 (mean = 18.88) in the roots, the NMSH, and the tops, respectively. Dodeca-2E, 4E, 8Z, 10E-tetraenoic acid isobutylamide and dodeca-2E, 4E, 8Z, 10Z-tetraenoic acid isobutylamide (alkamides 8/9) accounted for only 9.5% of the total alkamides in roots, but comprised 87.9% in the NMSH, and 76.6% in the young tops. Correlations of concentrations of alkamides or cichoric acid between those of roots and those of the NMSH were not statistically significant, and either within the roots, the NMSH, and the young tops. However, a significant negative correlation was observed between the concentration of cichoric acid in the roots and in young tops, and a significant positive correlation was observed between total alkamide concentration in the roots and cichoric acid concentration in the young tops. These results may be useful in the genetic improvement of E. purpurea for medicinal use.

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Luping Qu, Xiping Wang, Ying Chen, Richard Scalzo, Mark P. Widrlechner, Jeanine M. Davis and James F. Hancock

Seed germination patterns were studied in Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench grouped by seed source, one group of seven lots from commercially cultivated populations and a second group of nine lots regenerated from ex situ conserved wild populations. Germination tests were conducted in a growth chamber in light (40 μmol·m–2·s–1) or darkness at 25 °C for 20 days after soaking the seeds in water for 10 minutes. Except for two seed lots from wild populations, better germination was observed for commercially cultivated populations in light (90% mean among seed lots, ranging from 82% to 95%) and in darkness (88% mean among seed lots, ranging from 82% to 97%) than for wild populations in light (56% mean among seed lots, ranging from 9% to 92%) or in darkness (37% mean among seed lots, ranging from 4% to 78%). No germination difference was measured between treatments in light and darkness in the commercially cultivated populations, but significant differences were noted for treatments among wild populations. These results suggest that repeated cycles of sowing seeds during cultivation without treatments for dormancy release resulted in reduced seed dormancy in E. purpurea.