Phylogeny of Pelargonium (Geraniaceae) based on DNA sequences from three genomes

F.T. Bakker, A. Culham, P. Hettiarachi, T. Touloumendidou, M. Gibby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Phylogenetic hypotheses for the largely South African genus Pelargonium L'Hér. (Geraniaceae) were derived based on DNA sequence data from nuclear, chloroplast and mitochondrial encoded regions. The datasets were unequally represented and comprised cpDNA trnL-F sequences for 152 taxa, nrDNA ITS sequences for 55 taxa, and mtDNA nad1 b/c exons for 51 taxa. Phylogenetic hypotheses derived from the separate three datasets were overall congruent. A single hypothesis synthesising the information in the three datasets was constructed following a total evidence approach and implementing dataset specific stepmatrices in order to correct for substitution biases. Pelargonium was found to consist of five main clades, some with contrasting evolutionary patterns with respect to biogeographic distributions, dispersal capacity, pollination biology and karyological diversification. The five main clades are structured in two (subgeneric) clades that correlate with chromosome size. One of these clades includes a "winter rainfall clade" containing more than 70% of all currently described Pelargonium species, and all restricted to the South African Cape winter rainfall region. Apart from (woody) shrubs and small herbaceous rosette subshrubs, this clade comprises a large "xerophytic" clade including geophytes, stem and leaf succulents, harbouring in total almost half of the genus. This clade is considered to be the result of in situ proliferation, possibly in response to late-Miocene and Pliocene aridification events. Nested within it is a radiation comprising c. 80 species from the geophytic Pelargonium section Hoarea, all characterised by the possession of (a series of) tunicate tubers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-31
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • earliest land plants
  • plastid dna
  • mitochondrial-dna
  • section ligularia
  • chloroplast dna
  • sperm cells
  • cape flora
  • trnl-f
  • regions
  • pollination

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