Get access

Apostasiads, systematic anatomy, and the origins of Orchidaceae



Anatomical study of several species of the putatively primitive orchids Apostasia and Neuiviedia was based on specimens of leaves, stems and rootS. Research was carried out in the hope of providing objective information from anatomy towards unravelling the relationships of these plants, and especially towards answering the question of whether extant orchids evolved from these two genera, or from plants like them. The morphology of Apostasia and Neuwiedia has evoked the dogma of primitiveness because of the two or three anthers borne on separate filaments and the free style and stigma which characterize the flowerS. In most other orchids there is only one anther and filaments and styles are fused to form the column (gynostemium). The general anatomical structure of apostasiads shows features present in other orchids; none is restricted to Apostasia and Neuwiedia. Tracheary anatomy, however, shows vessels in roots, but not in any part of the shoot system. Vessel members are characterized by chiefly simple perforation plates in contrast with other orchids where scalariform perforation plates predominate in vessel members of the root. These phenomena, considered from the phylogenetic standpoint, would cast serious doubt on the possibility that plants with scalariform perforation plates, the ancestral, or primitive condition, could have arisen from plants with simple perforation plates, the derived, or advanced condition. On this basis the apostasiads could not have given rise to the di- and monandrous orchidS. Of the several suggested origins for orchids, Hypoxidaceae, or plants similar to them, whether in Asparagales, Liliales or Haemadorales of different authors, could have been the progenitors of orchids as a group, including the apostasiadS. Because of the unique combination of floral features in the apostasiads, their predominantly simple perforation plates, and their overall anatomical similarity to orchids in general, it would appear appropriate to consider them as a subfamily, Apostasioideae, of Orchidaceae sensu lato.