Stephen R. Downie


Professor of Plant Biology
Program in Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology
Associate Curator, UIUC Vascular Plant Herbarium
239 Morrill  MC-116
(217) 333-1275


B.Sc., 1982, University of Guelph
Ph.D., 1988, University of Alberta, Canada
Postdoctoral positions, University of Michigan and Indiana University


IB 100 Biological Sciences

IB 335 Systematics of Plants


Despite multidisciplinary studies using non-molecular characters, historical relationships among and within many families of flowering plants remain unclear. Reconstruction of phylogenies from molecular data has become  increasingly common in systematics and has provided valuable insight into evolutionary processes and relationships. We are using the record of molecular change contained within the chloroplast and nuclear genomes to trace evolutionary histories and to determine phylogenetic relationships in several groups of flowering plants.


Unique structural rearrangements of the chloroplast genome are useful as systematic characters, in part because their rarity suggests phylogenetic stability. Of additional interest is the detection, characterization, and phylogenetic circumscription of these structural mutations.


Currently, we are reconstructing the evolutionary history of Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) and elucidating patterns of character evolution using both molecular and morphological data. By integrating all available evidence, a revised higher-level classification of these diverse and economically important plants is resulting.


Downie, S. R. and R. K. Jansen. 2015. A comparative analysis of whole plastid genomes from the Apiales: expansions and contraction of the inverted repeat, mitochondrial to plastid transfer of DNA, and identification of highly divergent noncoding regions. Systematic Botany 40: 336-351.

Liu, J., L. Shi, J. Han, G. Li, H. Lu, J. Hou, X. Zhou, F. Meng, and S. R. Downie. 2014. Identification of species in the angiosperm family Apiaceae using DNA barcodes. Molecular Ecology Resources 14: 1231-1238.

Wang, Z.-X., S. R. Downie, J.-B. Tan, C.-Y. Liao, Y. Yu, and X.-J. He. 2014. Molecular phylogenetics of Pimpinella and allied genera (Apiaceae), with emphasis on Chinese native species, inferred from nrDNA ITS and cpDNA intron sequence data. Nordic Journal of Botany 32: 642-657.

George, E. E., D. H. Mansfield, J. F. Smith, R. L. Hartman, S. R. Downie, and C. E. Hinchliff. 2014. Phylogenetic analysis reveals multiple cases of morphological parallelism and taxonomic polyphyly in Lomatium (Apiaceae). Systematic Botany 39: 662-675.

Spalik, K., Banasiak, M. A. E. Feist, and S. R. Downie. 2014. Recurrent short-distance dispersal explains wide distributions of hydrophytic umbellifers (Apiaceae tribe Oenantheae). Journal of Biogeography 41: 1559-1571.

Liao, C.-Y., S. R. Downie, Q. Li, Y. Yu, X.-J. He, and B. Zhou. 2013. New insights into the phylogeny of Angelica and its allies (Apiaceae) with emphasis on East Asian species, inferred from nrDNA, cpDNA, and morphological evidence. Systematic Botany 38: 266-281.

Banasiak, L., M. Piwczynski, T. Ulinski, S. R. Downie, M. F. Watson, B. Shakya, and K. Spalik. 2013. Dispersal patterns in space and time: a case study of Apiaceae subfamily Apioideae. Journal of Biogeography 40: 1324-1335.

Ming, R., R. VanBuren, Y. Liu, M. Yang, Y. Han, L.-T. Li, Q. Zhang, M.-J. Kim, M. C. Schatz, M. Campbell, J. Li, J. E. Bowers, H. Tang, E. Lyons, A. A. Ferguson, G. Narzisi, D. R. Nelson, C. E. Blaby-Haas, A. R. Gschwend, Y. Jiao, J. P. Der, F. Zeng, J. Han, X. J. Min, K. A. Hudson, R. Singh, A. K. Grennan, S. J. Karpowicz, J. R. Watling, K. Ito, S. A. Robinson, M. E. Hudson, Q. Yu, T. C. Mockler, A. Carroll, Y. Zheng, R. Sunkar, R. Jia, N. Chen, J. Arro, C. M. Wai, E. Wafula, A. Spence, Y. Han, L. Xu, J. Zhang, R. Peery, M. J. Haus, W. Xiong, J. A. Walsh, J. Wu, M.-L. Wang, Y. J. Zhu, R. E. Paull, A. B. Britt, C. Du, S. R. Downie, M. A. Schuler, T. P. Michael, S. P. Long, D. R. Ort, J. W. Schopf, D. R. Gang, N. Jiang, M. Yandell, C. W. dePamphilis, S. S. Merchant, A. H. Paterson, B. B. Buchanan, S. Li, and J. Shen-Miller. 2013. Genome of the long-living sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.). Genome Biology 14:R41.

Brullo, C., S. Brullo, S. R. Downie, C. A. Danderson, and G. G. del Galdo. 2013. Siculosciadium, a new monotypic genus of Apiaceae from Sicily. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 99: 1-18.