Abstract— When analysing phylogcnetic relationships at low laxonomic levels it is often the ease that many of the features that can be used to separate taxa show continuous variation. The theoretical and practical problems for the use of such quantitative characters in phylogenetic analysis arc examined. Three methods of coding continuous data into discrete characters are assessed in detail: simple gap-coding, generalised gap-coding and segment-coding, a form of range-coding. The methods are applied to a data set gathered for Eucatyptus L'Hérit. informal subgenus Symphyomyrtus section Maidenana (Myrtaceae). Each method is capable of distorting relative differences between taxa, but segment-coding produces the least amount of distortion, provided the range of variation of the character is divided into a sufficient number of character states.
Continuous quantitative characters provide data for phylogenetic analysis that arc more noisy than those provided by discrete qualitative characters and should, therefore, only be used when the number of qualitative characters is insufficient for resolution of relationships. The results of such analyses should be recognised as provisional pending the discovery of more readily informative characters.