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Am J Bot. 2009 May;96(5):989-1010. doi: 10.3732/ajb.0800291.

A preliminary phylogeny of the 'didymocarpoid Gesneriaceae' based on three molecular data sets: Incongruence with available tribal classifications.

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Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR, Scotland, UK.


The 'didymocarpoid Gesneriaceae' (traditional subfam. Cyrtandroideae excluding Epithemateae) are the largest group of Old World Gesneriaceae, comprising 85 genera and 1800 species. We attempt to resolve their hitherto poorly understood generic relationships using three molecular markers on 145 species, of which 128 belong to didymocarpoid Gesneriaceae. Our analyses demonstrate that consistent topological relationships can be retrieved from data sets with missing data using subsamples and different combinations of gene sequences. We show that all available classifications in Old World Gesneriaceae are artificial and do not reflect natural relationships. At the base of the didymocarpoids are grades of clades comprising isolated genera and small groups from Asia and Europe. These are followed by a clade comprising the African and Madagascan genera. The remaining clades represent the advanced Asiatic and Malesian genera. They include a major group with mostly twisted capsules. The much larger group of remaining genera comprises exclusively genera with straight capsules and the huge genus Cyrtandra with indehiscent fruits. Several genera such as Briggsia, Henckelia, and Chirita are not monophyletic; Chirita is even distributed throughout five clades. This degree of incongruence between molecular phylogenies, traditional classifications, and generic delimitations indicates the problems with classifications based on, sometimes a single, morphological characters.

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