Phylogeny and evolution of the South African genus Metalasia (Asteraceae–Gnaphalieae) inferred from molecular and morphological data



Metalasia is a genus in tribe Gnaphalieae (Asteraceae), endemic to South Africa and with its main distribution in the Cape Floristic Region. The genus comprises 57 species and, with a number of closely related genera, it constitutes the ‘Metalasia clade’. A species-level phylogenetic analysis is presented, based on DNA sequences from two nuclear (internal and external transcribed spacer: ITS, ETS) and two plastid (psbA-trnH, trnL-trnF) regions together with morphological data. Analyses combining molecular and morphological data attempt not only to resolve species interrelationships, but also to detect patterns in character evolution. Phylogenetic analyses corroborate our earlier study and demonstrate that Metalasia is formed of two equally sized, well-supported sister groups, one of which is characterized by papillose cypselas. The results differ greatly from earlier hypotheses based on morphology alone, as few morphological characters support the phylogenetic patterns obtained. The two clades of Metalasia do, however, appear to differ in distribution, corresponding to the different rainfall regimes of South Africa. Analyses show a few taxa to be problematic; one example is the widely distributed M. densa which appears to be an intricate species complex. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 174, 173–198.