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Am J Bot. 2007 Jan;94(1):89-101. doi: 10.3732/ajb.94.1.89.

The closest relatives of cacti: insights from phylogenetic analyses of chloroplast and mitochondrial sequences with special emphasis on relationships in the tribe Anacampseroteae.

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  • 1Institut of Systematic Botany, University of Zürich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zürich, Switzerland.


Recent molecular and morphological systematic investigations revealed that the cacti are most closely related to Anacampseroteae, Portulaca and Talinum of the family Portulacaceae (ACPT clade of suborder Portulacineae). A combined analysis of ndhF, matK, and nad1 sequence data from the chloroplast and the mitochondrial genomes indicates that the tribe Anacampseroteae is the sister group of the family Cactaceae. This clade, together with Portulaca, is well characterized by the presence of axillary hairs or scales. Relationships within Anacampseroteae are characterized by a grade of five species of Grahamia s.l. from North and South America, and Grahamia australiana is found to be sister to the genera Anacampseros and Avonia. A comparison of vegetative characteristics indicates an evolutionary transition from woody subshrubs to dwarf perennial and highly succulent herbs during the diversification of Anacampseroteae. Available evidence from the present investigation as well as from previously published studies suggests that a revised classification of Portulacineae on the basis of inferred phylogenetic relationships might consist of a superfamily that includes Cactaceae and the three genera Anacampseros s.l. (including Avonia and Grahamia s.l.), Portulaca, and Talinum (including Talinella), either referred to three monogeneric families or to a paraphyletic family Portulacaceae*.

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