, Volume 171, Issue 1-4, pp 27-55

The morphology and relationships ofMedusagyne (Medusagynaceae)

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Abstract

The comparative vegetative and reproductive morphology and anatomy of the endangered, monotypic, dicotyledonous genusMedusagyne was studied, and detailed descriptions of leaf, axis, nodal, wood, floral, pollen, fruit, and seed structure are presented. Overall, the genus has many specialized features, including the possession of extreme, habitat-related specializations. Flowers are either bisexual or staminate, and are interpreted as retaining some primitive aspects, such as many free parts spirally arranged on an elongate floral axis. One of the most salient structural features of the plant is the massive development of ensheathing fibrous elements around the vascular system of both vegetative and reproductive tissues. Diffuse foliar sclereids are absent. Particular attention is paid to the unusual multicarpellate, synovarial gynoecium and comparisons are made with theCaryocaraceae. The totality of morphological and anatomical evidence confirms the view thatMedusagyne is a very distinct and evolutionarily isolated genus, best treated as forming the monotypic familyMedusagynaceae. Observations are presented, including the occurrence of stamen fascicle traces, that link the family to the dillenialean and thealean assemblage. Like other isolated thealean taxa,Medusagyne shows affinities to several different families, without having especially close relationships with any particular extant taxon.