Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 298, Issue 2, pp 351–367 | Cite as

Stipa (Poaceae) and allies in the Old World: molecular phylogenetics realigns genus circumscription and gives evidence on the origin of American and Australian lineages

  • Hassan R. Hamasha
  • K. Bernhard von Hagen
  • Martin RöserEmail author
Original Article


The tribe Stipeae with an estimated number of ca. 600 species is part of the grass subfamily Pooideae and has near worldwide distribution. Its species are often dominant constituents of steppe vegetation and other grasslands, especially in Eurasia, the Americas and Australia. The taxonomy of Old World Stipeae has been studied to date primarily on the basis of morphology and anatomy, while existing molecular phylogenetic investigations have mainly dealt with New World or Australian taxa. We studied 109 new ingroup taxa with a focus on Old World Stipeae (in addition with an extensive outgroup sampling) using chloroplast and nuclear ribosomal DNA sequences (3′trnK region, ITS1–5.8S gene–ITS2), and discuss taxonomic key characters. Five highly supported monophyletic lineages were identified, some of which were rather unexpected: (a) the narrowly defined Stipa core clade, which is primarily Eurasian but extends into Africa north of the Sahara Desert, (b) the majority of Old World Piptatherum, (c) a “Transcontinental Stipeae Clade” encompassing Eurasian, African, American and Australian lineages, (d) a Himalayan to E Asian clade and (e) the single species Achnatherum splendens. The large “Transcontinental Stipeae Clade” contained several lineages of Eurasian Stipeae different from the Stipa core (a), i.e., genera Aristella, Celtica, Oloptum gen. nov., Stipella stat. et. gen. nov., species of Achnatherum, and the species-rich lineages of Nassella/Jarava in America and of Austrostipa in Australia. In our circumscription Ptilagrostis was nested in (d), a clade (which included some species of Achnatherum and poorly studied Himalayan species ascribed to either Stipa or Orthoraphium) and whose internal structure remained unclear. Oloptum, gen. nov., is described, and the following combinations are made: Achnatherum pelliotii, comb. nov., Aristella keniensis, comb. nov., Oloptum miliaceum, comb. nov., Stipella, stat. et. gen. nov., S. capensis, comb. nov., S. nitens, comb. nov., S. parviflora, comb. nov., S. staintonii, comb. nov., and S. tigrensis, comb. nov.


Feathergrasses Grasses Phylogenetics Poaceae Stipeae 



We would especially like to thank H. Freitag (University of Kassel, Germany) for generously providing plant material from his collection and for valuable comments on the manuscript. We are grateful to I. Hensen (University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany), G. and S. Miehe (University Marburg, Germany) and M.V. Olonova (Tomsk State University, Russia) for supplying plant material for this study. We also thank B. Hildebrandt for excellent technical assistance and J. Schneider for providing the outgroup sequence data (University of Halle-Wittenberg). The study was supported by a Grant from the German Academic Exchange Programme (DAAD) to HRH and a research grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) to MR.

Supplementary material

606_2011_549_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (71 kb)
Supplementary material (PDF 72 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hassan R. Hamasha
    • 1
    • 3
  • K. Bernhard von Hagen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martin Röser
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Geobotany and Botanical Garden, Institute of BiologyMartin Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany
  2. 2.Carl-von-Ossietzky University OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  3. 3.Biology DepartmentJarash UniversityJarashJordan

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