Sequence data for internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and partial external transcribed spacer (ETS) regions were combined in a phylogenetic analysis with previously obtained plastid DNA restriction site data to provide a comprehensive molecular phylogenetic hypothesis for derived members of subtribe Helianthinae. Analyses of the two molecular datasets provided conflicting evidence on relationships among some groups, supporting the hypothesis that hybridization has played a significant role in the divergence of the subtribe. A revised generic-level classification is presented that divides the approximately 350 species of the subtribe among 21 genera. The paraphyletic Viguiera is narrowed to embrace only the type species, V. dentata. Four newly described genera, Dendroviguiera, Gonzalezia, Heiseria and Sidneya, are composed of species formerly included in Viguiera. Aldama is expanded to include 118 species extending from southwestern North America and Mexico to South America. This requires 116 new combinations, including 58 that were recently transferred into Rhysolepis, which is a synonym of Aldama, based on molecular phylogenetic results. One species of Viguiera is transferred to Tithonia, and two combinations in Hymenostephium are validated. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 167, 311–331.