Melastomataceae is a tropical family of 4500–5000 species divided into nine tribes. The largest tribe, Miconieae, is composed of approximately 2200 species in 30 genera and is found exclusively in the Neotropics. Previous phylogenetic analyses of the Miconieae have suggested that many of the genera are derived from a paraphyletic Miconia. However, these analyses only included six species of the large genus Leandra, so its phylogenetic affinities remained unclear. As currently defined Leandra is characterized by acute petals and terminal inflorescences, but some species of Miconia, Clidemia and Ossaea also have these characters. In this study, we present an analysis of nrITS sequence data for a sample of 63 species of Leandra. The genus is clearly resolved as polyphyletic, but some distinct and well-supported clades exist. Some of these partially correspond to sections recognized in the nineteenth century by Cogniaux, or to geographic distribution. The distribution of seed structure characters is better correlated with the phylogeny than traditional characters, such as petal morphology. Seed appendages in Leandra have evolved independently at least four times.
© The Willi Hennig Society 2007.