Journal Article

Molecular phylogenetics and the evolution of fruit and leaf morphology of <i>Dichaea</i> (Orchidaceae: Zygopetalinae)

Kurt M. Neubig, Norris H. Williams, W. Mark Whitten and Franco Pupulin

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 3, pages 457-467
Published in print August 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Molecular phylogenetics and the evolution of fruit and leaf morphology of Dichaea (Orchidaceae: Zygopetalinae)

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

The orchid genus Dichaea, with over 100 species found throughout the neotropics, is easily recognized by distichous leaves on long stems without pseudobulbs and flowers with infrastigmatic ligules. The genus has previously been divided into four sections based primarily on presence of ovary bristles and a foliar abscission layer. The aim of this work is to use DNA sequence data to estimate phylogenetic relationships within Dichaea and map the distribution of major morphological characters that have been used to delimit subgenera/sections.


Sequence data for the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacers and plastid matK, trnL intron, trnL-F spacer and ycf1 for 67 ingroup and seven outgroup operational taxonomic units were used to estimate phylogenetic relationships within Dichaea. Taxa from each of the four sections were sampled, with the greatest representation from section Dichaea, the most diverse and taxonomically puzzling group.

Key Results

Molecular data and morphology support monophyly of Dichaea. Results indicate that section Dichaeopsis is polyphyletic and based on symplesiomorphies, including deciduous leaves and smooth ovaries that are widespread in Zygopetalinae. There are at least three well-supported clades within section Dichaeopsis. Section Pseudodichaea is monophyletic and defined by setose ovaries and leaves with an abscission layer. Sections Dichaea and Dichaeastrum are monophyletic and defined by pendent habit and persistent leaves. Section Dichaeastrum, distinguished from section Dichaea primarily by a glabrous ovary, is potentially polyphyletic.


The leaf abscission layer was lost once, occurring only in the derived sections Dichaea and Dichaeastrum. The setose fruit is a more homoplasious character with several losses and gains within the genus. We propose an informal division of the genus based upon five well-supported clades.

Keywords: Dichaea; matK; nrITS; Orchidaceae; trnL intron; trnL-F spacer; ycf1; Zygopetalinae

Journal Article.  6712 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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