The Botanical Review

, Volume 84, Issue 1, pp 79–98 | Cite as

Comparative Flower and Inflorescence Organogenesis among Genera of Betulaceae: Implications for Phylogenetic Relationships

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Abstract

Betulaceae have simple flowers but complex inflorescences. Recent phylogenetic analyses using molecular data have produced robust phylogenetic trees of Betulaceae. In this study, we evaluated the phylogenetic value of comparative organogenetic data of reproductive organs in the context of molecular phylogenies. Flower and inflorescence developmental processes of 21 species from all six genera in Betulaceae were documented with scanning electron microscopy. In each pistillate cyme, there are one primary bract, two secondary bracts, and two or three flowers in the six genera; only in Alnus are there two tertiary bracts on the abaxial side. The pistillate flower of all genera but Alnus has tepal primordia. Two tepals stop developing early on, resulting in the lack of tepals in mature flowers of Betula; while the tepals are initiated from a common circular primordium at the base of pistil in Corylus, Ostryopsis, Carpinus, and Ostrya, and the developed tepals with irregular shape and unstable number of lobes are adnate to the top of the pistil. In staminate organogenesis, each cyme has one primary bract and three flowers in all genera; two secondary bracts are only present in Alnus, Betula, and Corylus. Staminate flowers have no tepals except in Alnus and Betula, and exhibit high variation in number of stamens among genera. The number of secondary and tertiary bracts in each pistillate and staminate cyme, as well as the presence of tepals in pistillate and staminate flowers was clarified in all genera. Micro-morphological characters were used to infer the phylogenetic relationships of genera and sections of Betulaceae. Our analyses support the division of two subfamilies: Betuloideae (Alnus and Betula) and Coryloideae (Corylus, Carpinus, Ostrya, and Ostryopsis), and three tribes: Betuleae (Alnus and Betula), Coryleae (Corylus), and Carpineae (Carpinus, Ostrya, and Ostryopsis). The results agree with those from molecular phylogenetic studies, and suggest that micro-morphological characters are phylogenetically informative in Betulaceae, and reproductive organs of Betulaceae have evolved in the direction of reduction in bracts and tepals.

Keywords

Betulaceae Flower Cyme Inflorescence Organogenesis Primordia Secondary bract Tertiary bract Tepals SEM Phylogeny 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Dr. Limin Lu for her morphological analyses and Professor Peter K. Endress for his critical review, in particular suggestions on the usage of flower and inflorescence terms that help improve the manuscript. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSF 31170180 and NNSF 31270268), Field work was partially supported by CAS International Research & Education Development Program (Grant No. SAJC201315), and MOST Science and Technology Basic Work (2013FY112100).

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© The New York Botanical Garden 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Life ScienceTonghua Normal UniversityTonghuaChina
  2. 2.Constructional and Preparation Office of Taiyuan Taishan Botanical GardenTaiyuanChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Biology DepartmentHope CollegeHollandUSA

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