Frontiers of Biology in China

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 125–143 | Cite as

Origin and differentiation of endemism in the flora of China

  • Wu Zhengyi 
  • Sun Hang Email author
  • Zhou Zhekun 
  • Peng Hua 
  • Li Dezhu 


The present paper analyzed 239 endemic genera in 67 families in the flora of seed plants in China. The results showed that there are five families containing more than ten endemic genera, namely, Gesneriaceae (27), which hereafter refers to the number of endemic genera in China, Composite (20), Labiatae (12), Cruciferae (11), and Umbelliferae (10), 15 families with two endemic genera, and another 30 families with only one endemic genus. Four monotypic families (Ginkgoaceae, Davidiaceae, Eucommiaceae and Acanthochlamydaceae) are the most ancient, relict and characteristic in the flora of seed plants in China. Based on integrative data of systematics, fossil history, and morphological and molecular evidence of these genera, their origin, evolution and relationships were discussed. In gymnosperms, all endemic genera are relicts of the Arctic-Tertiary flora, having earlier evolutionary history, and can be traced back to the Cretaceous or to the Jurassic and even earlier. In angiosperms, the endemic genera are mostly relicts, and are represented in all lineages in the “Eight-Class System of Classification of Angiosperms”, and endemism can be found in almost every evolutionary stage of extant angiosperms. The relict genera once occupied huge areas in the northern hemisphere in the Tertiary or the late Cretaceous, while neo-endemism mostly originated in the late Tertiary. They came from Arctic-Tertiary, Paleo-tropical-Tertiary and Tethys-Tertiary florisitic elements, and the blend of the three elements with many genera of autochthonous origin. The endemism was formed when some dispersal routes such as the North Atlantic Land Bridge, and the Bering Bridge became discontinuous during the Tertiary, as well as the climate change and glaciations in the late Tertiary and the Quaternary. Therefore, the late Tertiary is the starting point of extant endemism of the flora in China.


Chinese flora endemism origin evolution 


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wu Zhengyi 
    • 1
  • Sun Hang 
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zhou Zhekun 
    • 1
  • Peng Hua 
    • 1
  • Li Dezhu 
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesKunmingChina

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