Journal Article

Early reproductive developmental anatomy in <i>Decaisnea</i> (Lardizabalaceae) and its systematic implications

Hua-Feng Wang, Cynthia Ross Friedman, Zhi-Xin Zhu and Hai-Ning Qin

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 6, pages 1243-1253
Published in print November 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online September 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Early reproductive developmental anatomy in Decaisnea (Lardizabalaceae) and its systematic implications

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


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Background and Aims

Decaisnea insignis, known as ‘dead man's fingers’ (Lardizabalaceae), is widely distributed in China and the Himalayan foothill countries. This economically important plant, which is the only species in the genus, has not been the subject of any embryological studies aside from one brief, older paper that lacks micrographs. Data on Decaisnea are also important because its systematic position has been unstable since the genus was established in 1855. Therefore, the objectives of this study were: (a) to use modern microscopy to document early reproductive anatomical development in Decaisnea; and (b) to compare qualitatively these early embryological characters with allied taxa in a systematic context.


Decaisnea insignis floral buds and inflorescences were regularly collected from Shaanxi Province, China and prepared for light microscopy. The embryological characters studied were qualitatively compared with those of allied taxa via a thorough examination of the existing literature.

Key Results

Early reproductive anatomy in Decaisnea was documented and novel revelations made. It was discovered that the pollen is shed when three-celled (not two-celled, as previously reported), and that endosperm formation is nuclear (not cellular or helobial, as previously reported). These two newly revealed embryological characters are not found in any other members of Lardizabalaceae. Furthermore, neither are persistent antipodal cells, which we confirmed to be present in Decaisnea.


Decaisnea and other Lardizabalaceae characteristically have tetrasporangiate anthers, a secretory tapetum, simultaneous microsporocyte cytokinesis, primarily bitegmic, crassinucellate ovules, and a Polygonum type embryo sac. However, in the family, persistent antipodals, nuclear endosperm, and pollen shed at the three-celled stage are only found in Decaisnea. These embryological data prompted the suggestion that Decaisnea needs elevation above the level of genus.

Keywords: Decaisnea insignis; embryology; endosperm; Lardizabalaceae; microscopy; pollen; reproductive anatomy; systematics

Journal Article.  4934 words.  Illustrated.

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

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