Journal Article

Woodiness within the Spermacoceae–Knoxieae alliance (Rubiaceae): retention of the basal woody condition in Rubiaceae or recent innovation?

Frederic Lens, Inge Groeninckx, Erik Smets and Steven Dessein

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 103, issue 7, pages 1049-1064
Published in print May 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcp048
Woodiness within the Spermacoceae–Knoxieae alliance (Rubiaceae): retention of the basal woody condition in Rubiaceae or recent innovation?

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Background and Aims

The tribe Spermacoceae is essentially a herbaceous Rubiaceae lineage, except for some species that can be described as ‘woody’ herbs, small shrubs to treelets, or lianas. Its sister tribe Knoxieae contains a large number of herbaceous taxa, but the number of woody taxa is higher compared to Spermacoceae. The occurrence of herbaceous and woody species within the same group raises the question whether the woody taxa are derived from herbaceous taxa (i.e. secondary woodiness), or whether woodiness represents the ancestral state (i.e. primary woodiness). Microscopic observations of wood anatomy are combined with an independent molecular phylogeny to answer this question.

Methods

Observations of wood anatomy of 21 woody Spermacoceae and eight woody Knoxieae species, most of them included in a multi-gene molecular phylogeny, are carried out using light microscopy.

Key Results

Observations of wood anatomy in Spermacoceae support the molecular hypothesis that all the woody species examined are secondary derived. Well-known wood anatomical characters that demonstrate this shift from the herbaceous to the woody habit are the typically flat or decreasing length vs. age curves for vessel elements, the abundance of square and upright ray cells, or even the (near-) absence of rays. These so-called paedomorphic wood features are also present in the Knoxieae genera Otiophora, Otomeria, Pentas, Pentanisia and Phyllopentas. However, the wood structure of the other Knoxieae genera observed (Carphalea, Dirichletia and Triainolepis) is typical of primarily woody taxa.

Conclusions

In Spermacoceae, secondary woodiness has evolved numerous times in strikingly different habitats. In Knoxieae, there is a general trend from primary woodiness towards herbaceousness and back to (secondary) woodiness.

Keywords: Knoxieae; LM; primary woodiness; Rubiaceae; Rubioideae; secondary woodiness; Spermacoceae; wood anatomy

Journal Article.  9102 words.  Illustrated.

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

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