The remarkable diversity of pollen morphology in Annonaceae has attracted systematic attention since the 1970s. Optimization of pollen characters on a molecular tree confirms that granular monosulcate pollen, as in Anaxagorea and subfamily Ambavioideae, was ancestral in the family. However, granular structure is derived for angiosperms as a whole, and exine characters are highly homoplastic in Annonaceae. Because columellar taxa (Annickia, Bocageeae) diverged earlier than previously thought, columellae may have re-originated in the common ancestor of Malmeoideae and Annonoideae, which make up most of the family, with several later reversals to granular structure. In Malmeoideae, loss of the sulcus and origin of a verrucate tectum occurred in the tribe Miliuseae, followed by an uncertain number of origins of disulculate pollen. Tetrads arose several times in Annonoideae, but reverted to monads in Isolona and probably Uvarieae. Recognition that microspores rotate during development in Annona and Cymbopetalum suggests that the proximal thin area in these taxa is a modified distal sulcus, but rotation does not occur in all tetrad groups; a broader survey is needed to evaluate this phenomenon. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 169, 190–221.