This family comprises 53 genera with approx. 1200 species, and has its centre of diversification in the old world tropics. The current phylogenetic concept as based upon DNA data (Kress et al., 2002) is used as a background for chemodiversity studies. These include comparative studies on the phytochemistry of selected species from the genera Alpinia, Curcuma and Zingiber. Our aim is to get more insight into the chemodiversity of this interesting family by integrating molecular, chemical, biological, systematic and co-evolutionary aspects.
The chemical composition of Aglaia and Stemona displays an excellent example for a link between basic research (e.g. chemosystematics, investigation of biogenetic capacities) and applied aspects (finding of new lead structures for application in sustainable agriculture and in medicinal research).
Within Meliaceae, Aglaia represents the largest genus comprising somewhat more than 100 species. The classification and ecology of the genus Aglaia have been investigated by Dr Caroline Pannell. Her monograph of the genus, published in 1992, represents an attempt to bring the genus into systematic order, to apply correct names and to recognize and name new species.
Aglaia contains different secondary metabolites, some of them show bioactivities against insects as well as fungi.
Stemonaceae represent a rather isolated family within the Monocotyledons consisting of 4 genera and about 35 species. Many species prefer a seasonal climate and occur as perennial climbers or subshrubs with tufted tuberous roots in rather dry vegetation ranging from continental Asia and Japan through Southeast Asia to tropical Australia. Stemona is the largest genus with about 25 species occurring as subshrubs or twining herbs mostly with perennial tuberous roots. This family is the only known source of Stemona-alkaloids, a unique class of bioactive secondary metabolites.