chapter  1
34 Pages

Taxonomy of Rhodiola rosea L., with Special Attention to Molecular Analyses of Nunavik (Québec) Populations

The medicinal plant Rhodiola rosea L., known as roseroot, golden root, or Arctic root, has a long history of traditional medicinal use in Eurasia (Kelly 2001; Brown et  al. 2002; Alm 2004) and North America (Blondeau et al. 2010; Cuerrier and Elders of Kangiqsualujjuaq 2011). Although the species has been highlighted as a promising Canadian medicinal crop (Small and Catling 2000), North American populations of R. rosea have not been studied as extensively as European populations (Olfelt et al. 2001; Filion et al. 2008; Avula et al. 2009) and remain the subject of little research. This is of particular concern as R. rosea has a complex taxonomic history. It has been given more than 20 names and in North America, the western roseroot, Rhodiola integrifolia Raf., has sometimes been considered a subspecies or variety of R. rosea (Table 1.1), and this infraspecic nomenclature has been used in some regional oras (Polunin 1940; Scoggan 1978; Hultén and Fries 1986; Gleason and Cronquist 1991; Roland and Zinck 1998; Cody 2000; Aiken et al. 2003; Dodson and Dunmire 2007). This taxonomic confusion can lead to unconscious adulteration of commercialized products, which, in this case, is of special interest as, to date, no medicinal properties have been reported for R. integrifolia. In this chapter, rst we will give an overview of the taxonomy (and distribution) of the genus Rhodiola, and second we will elucidate the genetic diversity of R. rosea populations in Nunavik (low Arctic region of Northern Québec, Canada), and refer to the taxonomy proposed by Ohba (2002).