Pollen morphology of Xanthium L. (s.l.) (Asteraceae, Asteroideae, Heliantheae, Ambrosiinae) in the Iberian Peninsula - a palynotaxonomic approach to a poisonous, allergenic and invasive genus.
The pollen morphology of the Iberian taxa of the genus Xanthium s.l. and of the non-Iberian species X. ambrosioides was studied to help to identify these poisonous, allergenic and invasive taxa and clarify their taxonomic relationships. In addition, the question of the existence and structure of a mesoaperture in the apertural system of Xanthium was also considered. The pollen grains of sections Acanthoxanthium and Xanthium clearly differ by their characters, which supports the separation of both taxa and allows for their distinction based on pollen morphology. It is suggested that the morphological and palynological differences between Xanthium and Acanthoxanthium, together with the lack of hybridisation between the two sections and the monophyly of Acanthoxanthium, could lead to the elevation of the latter to the generic status. The two species of section Xanthium present in the Iberian Peninsula (X. orientale and X. strumarium) and of section Acanthoxanthium are well separated by their palynological features. Likewise, the Iberian subspecies of Xanthium, X. orientale subsp. orientale and X. orientale subsp. italicum are palynologically distinguishable. However, no significant difference could be found between the pollen of X. strumarium subsp. strumarium and of X. strumarium subsp. brasilicum. The pollen data do not support the hypotheses of a hybrid origin for X. strumarium subsp. brasilicum. A mesoaperture intersecting the foot layer and the upper part of the endexine is present in both sections, which is congruent with the results already found for other Asteroideae.