• campo rupestre;
  • Espinhaço Range;
  • microendemism;
  • parsimony;
  • threatened species

Paepalanthus subgenus Xeractis (Eriocaulaceae) comprises 28 recognized species endemic to the Espinhaço Range, in Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Most species of the subgenus are restricted to small localities and critically endangered, but still in need of systematic study. The monophyly of the subgenus has already been tested, but only with a few species. Our study presents the first phylogenetic hypothesis within the group, based on morphology. A maximum parsimony analysis was conducted on a matrix of 30 characters for 30 terminal taxa, including all species of the subgenus and two outgroups. The biogeographical hypotheses for the subgenus were inferred based on dispersal–vicariance analysis (DIVA). The analysis provided one most-parsimonious hypothesis that supports most of the latest published subdivisions (sections and series). However, some conflicts remain concerning the position of a few species and the relationships between sections. The distribution and origin(s) of microendemism are also discussed, providing the ground for conservation strategies to be developed in the region. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 167, 137–152.