Phylogeny of the core Malvales: Evidence from ndhF sequence data

William S. Alverson, Barbara A. Whitlock, Reto Nyffeler, Clemens Bayer, David A. Baum

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242 Scopus citations


The monophyly of the group comprising the core malvalean families, Bombacaceae, Malvaceae, Sterculiaceae, and Tiliaceae, was recently confirmed by molecular studies, but the internal structure of this clade is poorly understood. In this study, we examined sequences of the chloroplast ndhF gene (aligned length 2226 bp) from 70 exemplars representing 35 of the 39 putative tribes of core Malvales. The monophyly of one traditional family, the Malvaceae, was supported in the trees resulting from these data, but the other three families, as traditionally circumscribed, are nonmonophyletic. In addition, the following relationships were well supported: (1) a clade, /Malvatheca, consisting of traditional Malvaceae and Bombacaceae (except some members of tribe Durioneae), plus Fremontodendron and Chiranthodendron, which are usually treated as Sterculiaceae; (2) a clade, /Malvadendrina, supported by a unique 21-bp (base pair) deletion and consisting of /Malvatheca, plus five additional subclades, including representatives of Sterculiaceae and Tiliaceae, and Durionieae; (3) a clade, /Byttneriina, with genera traditionally assigned to several tribes of Tiliaceae, plus exemplars of tribes Byttnerieae, Hermannieae, and Lasiopetaleae of Sterculiaceae. The most striking departures from traditional classifications are the following: Durio and relatives appear to be more closely related to Helicteres and Reevesia (Sterculiaceae) than to Bombacaceae; several genera traditionally considered as Bombacaceae (Camptostemon, Matisia, Phragmotheca, and Quararibea) or Sterculiaceae (Chiranthodendron and Fremontodendron) appear as sister lineages to the traditional Malvaceae; the traditional tribe Helictereae (Sterculiaceae) is polyphyletic; and Sterculiaceae and Tiliaceae, as traditionally circumscribed, represent polyphyletic groups that cannot sensibly be maintained with their traditional limits for purposes of classification. We discuss morphological characters and conclude that there has been extensive homoplasy in characters previously used to delineate major taxonomic groups in core Malvales. The topologies here also suggest that /Malvatheca do not have as a synapormophy monothecate anthers, as has been previously supposed but, instead, may be united by dithecate, transversely septate (polysporangiate) anthers, as found in basal members of both /Bombacoideae and /Malvoideae. Thus, 'monothecate' anthers may have been derived at least twice, independently, within the /Bombacoideae (core Bombacaceae) and /Malvoideae (traditional Malvaceae).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1474-1486
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiosperm phylogeny
  • Bombacaceae
  • Malvaceae
  • Malvales
  • NdhF
  • Phylogenetic nomenclature
  • Stamen evolution
  • Sterculiaceae
  • Tiliaceae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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