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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2005 Apr;35(1):48-59.

Phylogenetic relationships in Ephedra (Ephedraceae) inferred from chloroplast and nuclear DNA sequences.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Sequences of the nuclear ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer region 1 and the chloroplast-encoded genes maturase K and ribulose-1,5 biphosphate carboxylase large subunit were obtained from species of Ephedra (Ephedraceae) representing the geographic range and morphological diversity of the genus. Phylogenetic analyses of the DNA data indicate that relationships within the genus are better predicted by geographic region of origin than by ovulate cone characters. The sampled species with dry, winged (versus fleshy) ovulate cone bracts or single-seeded cones do not form monophyletic groups and therefore the previous classification systems of Ephedra based on these aspects of bract morphology appear to be largely unnatural. Three groups were identified among the Old World species studied, one comprising European and Mediterranean species and two including only Asian species. The sequence data suggest a possible early divergence of a New World clade of Ephedra from among the Old World groups. The South American species form a distinct clade apparently related to one of two groups of North American species, which accords with a frequent floristic pattern of close relationships between species groups in western South America and southwestern North America.

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