Pablo Muñoz Rodríguez

Group leader

Professor Robert Scotland

Research areas

Biodiversity & Plant Systematics

Research description

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.) is one of the ten most important staple foods in the world. It produces more biomass and nutrients per hectare than any other crop. In recent times it has proved especially significant in addressing vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. At a time when crop diversity is paramount for global food security, understanding the evolutionary relationship between crops and their closest relatives is of major importance because of the interest in wild species for breeding programmes. However in the specific case of sweet potato, and despite 200 years of research efforts, most aspects of that relationship remain unclear, in part due to a lack of reliable taxonomic knowledge of its wild relatives.

What is known is that sweet potato forms a monophyletic group with 13 other species. In the last taxonomic revision of this group, twelve species and three hybrids were included in the Section Batatas, and several other species have been added since. Most species of this group are difficult to identify and discriminate from each other as the taxonomic boundaries between species remain unclear. The group is distributed in America, from Southern United States to Northern Argentina including the Caribbean, with one species in the Asian Pacific coast. The highest number of species are found from central Mexico to the northern Andean Region.

My research utilizes morphological and molecular sequence data to address a number of questions concerning the sweet potato and its wild relatives, including sweet potato domestication and the role of other species in its evolution.


Muñoz-Rodríguez, P., Carruthers, T. et al 2018. Reconciling Conflicting Phylogenies in Origin of Sweet Potato & Dispersal to Polynesia. Current Biology.

Wood JRI, Muñoz-Rodríguez P, Degen R, Scotland RW (2017) New species of Ipomoea (Convolvulaceae) from South America. PhytoKeys 88: 1-38.

Muñoz-Rodríguez, P., D. Draper Munt & J.C. Moreno Saiz (2017). Global strategy for plant conservation: inadequate in situ conservation of threatened flora in Spain. Israel Journal of Plant Sciences. Special Issue: New Thinking and Conceptual Advances in Plant Conservation, 63(4): 297-308.

Cardiel, J.M. & P. Muñoz-Rodríguez (2015). Synopsis of Acalypha (Euphorbiaceae) of Northern Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 101(2): 384-405

Muñoz-Rodríguez, P., D. Draper & J.C. Moreno (2014). La Estrategia Global de Conservación de Plantas en España: protección in situ de la flora vascular. Conservación Vegetal 18: 5-7.

Muñoz-Rodríguez, P., J.M. Cardiel & D. Atha (2014). Acalypha L. subgen Linostachys (Klotzsch ex Baill.) Pax & K.Hoffm. (Euphorbiaceae, Acalyphoideae): A global review. PhytoTaxa 166(3): 199-221.

Cardiel, J.M., M. Nee & P. Muñoz-Rodríguez (2013[2014]). Synopsis of Acalypha L. (Euphorbiaceae) of Peru and Bolivia, with description of a new species. Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid 70(2): 152-177.

Cardiel, J.M. & P. Muñoz-Rodríguez (2013). Revised taxonomy and nomenclature of Acalypha L. Sect. Communes Pax & K. Hoffm. (Euphorbiaceae): a complex group of species widespread in the Southern Cone. Taxon 62: 1296-1304.

Cardiel, J.M. & P. Muñoz-Rodríguez (2013). Acalypha carrascona Cardiel (Euphorbiaceae), novelty for the flora of Mexico. Botanica Complutensis 37: 53-56.

Cardiel, J.M. & P. Muñoz-Rodríguez (2012). Synopsis of the continental Ecuadorian species of Acalypha L. (Euphorbiaceae). Phytokeys 17: 1-17.

Cardiel, J.M. & P. Muñoz-Rodríguez (2012). Two new species of Acalypha L. (Euphorbiaceae) from Bolivia. Brittonia 64(4): 363-367.



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