Get access

Morphological characters add support for some members of the basal grade of Asteraceae


Corresponding author. E-mail:


Recent molecular studies in Asteraceae have divided tribe Mutisieae (sensu Cabrera) into 13 tribes and eight subfamilies. Each of the major clades is well supported but the relationships among them are not always clear. Some of the new taxa are easily characterized by morphological data but others are not, chief among the latter being three subfamilies (Stifftioideae, Wunderlichioideae and Gochnatioideae) and the tribe Hyalideae. To understand evolution in the family it is critical to investigate potential morphological characters that can help to evaluate the basal lineages of the Asteraceae. The data for this study were taken from 52 species in 24 genera representing the basal groups in the family. Many characters were examined but most of the useful ones were from reproductive structures. Several apomorphies supported a few of the clades. For instance, members of subfamily Wunderlichioideae (Hyalideae and Wunderlichieae) share predominantly ten-ribbed achenes and members of Wunderlichioideae + Stifftioideae share two synapomorphies: 100–150 (200) pappus elements, arranged in (three) four or five series. These apomorphies can be viewed as an indication of a sister-group relationship between the two subfamilies as the placement of Stifftieae was not well resolved by the molecular data. Members of Wunderlichieae are characterized by having a paleaceous receptacle, style branches that are strongly papillose above and below the bifurcation, and a pappus of scales. Hyalis and Ianthopappus (Hyalideae) share venation type and an apiculate anther appendage but these are also found in Gochnatieae. Other clades have fewer supporting characters. These characters are just a beginning. Cladograms with morphology characters plotted, illustrations and a key to the basal grade of Asteraceae are provided. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London