27 January 2021
DNA barcoding has rapidly become a useful complementary tool in floristic investigations particularly for identifying specimens that lack diagnostic characters. Here, we assess the capability of three DNA barcode markers (chloroplast rpoB, accD and nuclear ITS) for correct species assignment in a floristic survey on the Caucasus. We focused on two herbal groups with potential for ornamental applications, namely orchids and asterids. On these two plant groups, we tested whether our selection of barcode markers allows identification of the “barcoding gap” in sequence identity and to distinguish between monophyletic species when employing distance-based methods. All markers successfully amplified most specimens, but we found that the rate of species-level resolution amongst selected markers largely varied in the two plant groups. Overall, for both lineages, plastid markers had a species-level assignment success rate lower than the nuclear ITS marker. The latter confirmed, in orchids, both the existence of a barcoding gap and that all accessions of the same species clustered together in monophyletic groups. Further, it also allowed the detection of a phylogeographic signal.The ITS marker resulted in its being the best performing barcode for asterids; however, none of the three tested markers showed high discriminatory ability. Even if ITS were revealed as the most promising plant barcode marker, we argue that the ability of this barcode for species assignment is strongly dependent on the evolutionary history of the investigated plant lineage.