Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 264, Issue 3, pp 135-156

First online:

The phylogeny of the austral grass subfamily Danthonioideae: Evidence from multiple data sets

  • N. P. BarkerAffiliated withMolecular Ecology and Systematics Group, Dept. Botany, Rhodes University Email author 
  • , C. GalleyAffiliated withInstitute for Systematic Botany
  • , G. A. VerboomAffiliated withDept. Botany, University of Cape Town
  • , P. MafaAffiliated withDept. Botany, University of Cape Town
  • , M. GilbertAffiliated withMolecular Ecology and Systematics Group, Dept. Botany, Rhodes University
  • , H. P. LinderAffiliated withInstitute for Systematic Botany

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The grass subfamily Danthonioideae is one of the smaller in the family. We utilize DNA sequence data from three chloroplast regions (trnL, rpoC2 and rbcL) and one nuclear region (Internal Transcribed Spacer; ITS) both singly and in combination to elucidate the relationships of the genera in the subfamily. The topology retrieved by the ITS region is not congruent with that of the plastid data, but this conflict is not strongly supported. Nine well-supported clades are retrieved by all data sets. The relationships at the base of the subfamily are clearly established, comprising a series of three clades of Merxmuellera species. The earliest diverging clade probably does not belong in Danthonioideae. The other two clades are centered in the tropical African mountains and Cape mountains respectively. A clade of predominantly North and South American Danthonia species as well as D. archboldii from New Guinea is retrieved, but the African and Asian species of Danthonia are related to African species of Merxmuellera, thus rendering Danthonia polyphyletic. The relationships of the Danthonia clade remain equivocal, as do those of the two Cortaderia clades, the Pseudopentameris and Rytidosperma clades.


Danthonioideae Poaceae phylogeny cpDNA ITS Internal Transcribed Spacer Danthonia Cortaderia Merxmuellera