The roots of the understorey shrub Carapichea ipecacuanha (ipecac) have medicinal properties, and the uprooting of wild plants has supplied most of the world demand for this species. Although under severe population decline, C. ipecacuanha lacks legal protection. In the wild, the aerial stems of ipecac clump together to form clusters with well-defined borders. Cluster size may range from several to hundreds of aerial stems. To investigate the extent of clonality among aerial stems in ipecac clusters, we sampled 50 wild clusters (a total of 291 aerial stems) and screened them with 89 inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers. The 291 aerial stems were grouped into 42 putative clones. The clonal groups generally consisted of aerial stems from the same cluster, and there was little or no genetic differentiation among aerial stems at the cluster level. These findings suggest that strategies designed to conserve ipecac in situ should not rely upon census data, which are based on the number of aerial stems per cluster and the number of clusters per population, because such data greatly underestimate the species effective population size and genetic diversity. Our results also indicate that this species needs protection at a federal level.
clonal propagation; genetic diversity; ISSR; poaia; Psychotria ipecacuanha