The species of the South American genus Petunia (Solanaceae) differ in flower morphology, color, scent, and nectar production. They attract different pollinators and therefore rarely hybridize in nature. But they can easily be crossed in the lab and give viable offspring, which makes it possible to study the genetic basis of reproductive isolation and speciation. We are identifying the genes and study their effects on pollinator preference.
For a long time we have also worked on phyllotaxis, the regular arrangement of the leaves and flowers around the stem of the plant. Especially the spiral arrangements present a classical problem in plant development that has interested not only biologists but also mathematicians and physicists for centuries. Our interest is the molecular basis of phyllotaxis.