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Complete chloroplast genome of the genus Cymbidium: lights into the species identification, phylogenetic implications and population genetic analyses

Jun-Bo Yang1, Min Tang2, Hong-Tao Li1*, Zhi-Rong Zhang1 and De-Zhu Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 Germplasm Bank of Wild Species, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan, 650201, China

2 College of Landscape and Horticulture, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming, Yunnan, 650201, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:84  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-84

Published: 18 April 2013



Cymbidium orchids, including some 50 species, are the famous flowers, and they possess high commercial value in the floricultural industry. Furthermore, the values of different orchids are great differences. However, species identification is very difficult. To a certain degree, chloroplast DNA sequence data are a versatile tool for species identification and phylogenetic implications in plants. Different chloroplast loci have been utilized for evaluating phylogenetic relationships at each classification level among plant species, including at the interspecies and intraspecies levels. However, there is no evidence that a short sequence can distinguish all plant species from each other in order to infer phylogenetic relationships. Molecular markers derived from the complete chloroplast genome can provide effective tools for species identification and phylogenetic resolution.


The complete nucleotide sequences of eight individuals from a total of five Cymbidium species’ chloroplast (cp) genomes were determined using Illumina sequencing technology of the total DNA via a combination of de novo and reference-guided assembly. The length of the Cymbidium cp genome is about 155 kb. The cp genomes contain 123 unique genes, and the IR regions contain 24 duplicates. Although the genomes, including genome structure, gene order and orientation, are similar to those of other orchids, they are not evolutionarily conservative. The cp genome of Cymbidium evolved moderately with more than 3% sequence divergence, which could provide enough information for phylogeny. Rapidly evolving chloroplast genome regions were identified and 11 new divergence hotspot regions were disclosed for further phylogenetic study and species identification in Orchidaceae.


Phylogenomic analyses were conducted using 10 complete chloroplast genomes from seven orchid species. These data accurately identified the individuals and established the phylogenetic relationships between the species. The results reveal that phylogenomics based on organelle genome sequencing lights the species identification—organelle-scale “barcodes”, and is also an effective approach for studying whole populations and phylogenetic characteristics of Cymbidium.

Chloroplast genome; Phylogenomics; Species identification; Organelle-scale barcodes; Phylogeny; Divergence hotspot