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Am J Bot. 1999 Feb;86(2):208-24.

A phylogenetic analysis of the Orchidaceae: evidence from rbcL nucleotide.

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  • 1The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics Studies, The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York 10458-5126;


Cladistic parsimony analyses of rbcL nucleotide sequence data from 171 taxa representing nearly all tribes and subtribes of Orchidaceae are presented here. These analyses divide the family into five primary monophyletic clades: apostasioid, cypripedioid, vanilloid, orchidoid, and epidendroid orchids, arranged in that order. These clades, with the exception of the vanilloids, essentially correspond to currently recognized subfamilies. A distinct subfamily, based upon tribe Vanilleae, is supported for Vanilla and its allies. The general tree topology is, for the most part, congruent with previously published hypotheses of intrafamilial relationships; however, there is no evidence supporting the previously recognized subfamilies Spiranthoideae, Neottioideae, or Vandoideae. Subfamily Spiranthoideae is embedded within a single clade containing members of Orchidoideae and sister to tribe Diurideae. Genera representing tribe Tropideae are placed within the epidendroid clade. Most traditional subtribal units are supported within each clade, but few tribes, as currently circumscribed, are monophyletic. Although powerful in assessing monophyly of clades within the family, in this case rbcL fails to provide strong support for the interrelationships of the subfamilies (i.e., along the spine of the tree). The cladograms presented here should serve as a standard to which future morphological and molecular studies can be compared.

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