Further support for the phylogenetic relationships within Euphorbia L. (Euphorbiaceae) from nrITS and trnL–trnF IGS sequence data
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The cosmopolitan genus Euphorbia is one of the largest plant genera with an extreme phenotypic plasticity ranging from globose succulents to large shrubs and trees adapted to very divergent habitats like forests or deserts. We compiled the current knowledge about the evolution of Euphorbia by reconstructing a molecular phylogeny based on nearly all available internal transcribed spacer (nrITS) sequence data from previous investigations and sequences of newly sampled species. We compared the results with phylogenetic analyses based on a combined data set of nrITS and trnL–trnF intergenic spacer sequences of a subset of taxa. Apart from a few exceptions, the results correspond well to recently published studies based on different molecular markers. The genus Euphorbia is divided into four major clades, of which the clade comprising subgen. Rhizanthium is restricted to Africa and Madagascar, whereas the remaining three clades are distributed over several continents. Our results support the hypothesis that Euphorbia evolved in Africa from progenitors of subgen. Esula.