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1.  The multiple fuzzy origins of woodiness within Balsaminaceae using an integrated approach. Where do we draw the line? 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(4):783-799.
Background and Aims
The family Balsaminaceae is essentially herbaceous, except for some woodier species that can be described as ‘woody’ herbs or small shrubs. The family is nested within the so-called balsaminoid clade of Ericales, including the exclusively woody families Tetrameristaceae and Marcgraviaceae, which is sister to the remaining families of the predominantly woody order. A molecular phylogeny of Balsaminaceae is compared with wood anatomical observations to find out whether the woodier species are derived from herbaceous taxa (i.e. secondary woodiness), or whether woodiness in the family represents the ancestral state for the order (i.e. primary woodiness).
Wood anatomical observations of 68 Impatiens species and Hydrocera triflora, of which 47 are included in a multigene phylogeny, are carried out using light and scanning electron microscopy and compared with the molecular phylogenetic insights.
Key Results
There is much continuous variation in wood development between the Impatiens species studied, making the distinction between herbaceousness and woodiness difficult. However, the most woody species, unambiguously considered as truly woody shrubs, all display paedomorphic wood features pointing to secondary woodiness. This hypothesis is further supported by the molecular phylogeny, demonstrating that these most woody species are derived from herbaceous (or less woody) species in at least five independent clades. Wood formation in H. triflora is mostly confined to the ribs of the stems and shows paedomorphic wood features as well, suggesting that the common ancestor of Balsaminaceae was probably herbaceous.
The terms ‘herbaceousness’ and ‘woodiness’ are notoriously difficult to use in Balsaminaceae. However, anatomical observations and molecular sequence data show that the woodier species are derived from less woody or clearly herbaceous species, demonstrating that secondary woodiness has evolved in parallel.
PMCID: PMC3286280  PMID: 22190560
Balsaminaceae; herbaceousness; Hydrocera; Impatiens; insular woodiness; light microscopy; primary woodiness; secondary woodiness; wood anatomy
2.  The need to re-investigate the nature of homoplastic characters: an ontogenetic case study of the ‘bracteoles’ in Atripliceae (Chenopodiaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(5):847-865.
Background and Aims
Within Chenopodioideae, Atripliceae have been distinguished by two bracteoles enveloping the female flowers/fruits, whereas in other tribes flowers are described as ebracteolate with persistent perianth. Molecular phylogenetic hypotheses suggest ‘bracteoles’ to be homoplastic. The origin of the bracteoles was explained by successive inflorescence reductions. Flower reduction was used to explain sex determination. Therefore, floral ontogeny was studied to evaluate the nature of the bracteoles and sex determination in Atripliceae.
Inflorescences of species of Atriplex, Chenopodium, Dysphania and Spinacia oleracea were investigated using light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.
Key Results
The main axis of the inflorescence is indeterminate with elementary dichasia as lateral units. Flowers develop centripetally, with first the formation of a perianth primordium either from a ring primordium or from five individual tepal primordia fusing post-genitally. Subsequently, five stamen primordia originate, followed by the formation of an annular ovary primordium surrounding a central single ovule. Flowers are either initially hermaphroditic remaining bisexual and/or becoming functionally unisexual at later stages, or initially unisexual. In the studied species of Atriplex, female flowers are strictly female, except in A. hortensis. In Spinacia, female and male flowers are unisexual at all developmental stages. Female flowers of Atriplex and Spinacia are protected by two accrescent fused tepal lobes, whereas the other perianth members are absent.
In Atriplex and Spinacia modified structures around female flowers are not bracteoles, but two opposite accrescent tepal lobes, parts of a perianth persistent on the fruit. Flowers can achieve sexuality through many different combinations; they are initially hermaphroditic, subsequently developing into bisexual or functionally unisexual flowers, with the exception of Spinacia and strictly female flowers in Atriplex, which are unisexual from the earliest developmental stages. There may be a relationship between the formation of an annular perianth primordium and flexibility in floral sex determination.
PMCID: PMC3177680  PMID: 21852278
Atriplex; Atripliceae; bract/bracteole; Chenopodiaceae; Chenopodioideae; Chenopodium; Dysphania; floral ontogeny; floral sex determination; perianth modification; SEM/LM; Spinacia
3.  Spikelet structure and development in Cyperoideae (Cyperaceae): a monopodial general model based on ontogenetic evidence 
Annals of Botany  2010;105(4):555-571.
Background and Aims
In Cyperoideae, one of the two subfamilies in Cyperaceae, unresolved homology questions about spikelets remained. This was particularly the case in taxa with distichously organized spikelets and in Cariceae, a tribe with complex compound inflorescences comprising male (co)florescences and deciduous female single-flowered lateral spikelets. Using ontogenetic techniques, a wide range of taxa were investigated, including some controversial ones, in order to find morphological arguments to understand the nature of the spikelet in Cyperoideae. This paper presents a review of both new ontogenetic data and current knowledge, discussing a cyperoid, general, monopodial spikelet model.
Scanning electron microscopy and light microscopy were used to examine spikelets of 106 species from 33 cyperoid genera.
Ontogenetic data presented allow a consistent cyperoid spikelet model to be defined. Scanning and light microscopic images in controversial taxa such as Schoenus nigricans, Cariceae and Cypereae are interpreted accordingly.
Spikelets in all species studied consist of an indeterminate rachilla, and one to many spirally to distichously arranged glumes, each subtending a flower or empty. Lateral spikelets are subtended by a bract and have a spikelet prophyll. In distichously organized spikelets, combined concaulescence of the flowers and epicaulescence (a newly defined metatopic displacement) of the glumes has caused interpretational controversy in the past. In Cariceae, the male (co)florescences are terminal spikelets. Female single-flowered spikelets are positioned proximally on the rachis. To explain both this and the secondary spikelets in some Cypereae, the existence of an ontogenetic switch determining the development of a primordium into flower, or lateral axis is postulated.
PMCID: PMC2850794  PMID: 20197291
4.  Evolution of fruit and seed characters in the Diervilla and Lonicera clades (Caprifoliaceae, Dipsacales) 
Annals of Botany  2009;104(2):253-276.
Background and Aims
The Diervilla and Lonicera clades are members of the family Caprifoliaceae (Dipsacales sensu Donoghue et al., 2001, Harvard Papers in Botany 6: 459–479). So far, the intergeneric relationships of the Lonicera clade and the systematic position of Heptacodium remain equivocal. By studying fruit and seed morphology and anatomy, an attempt is made to clarify these issues. In addition, this study deals with the evolution of fruit and seed characters of the Diervilla and Lonicera clades with reference to allied taxa.
Light and scanning electron microscopy were used for the morphological and anatomical investigations. Phylogenetic analyses were carried out by applying the parsimony and Bayesian inference optimality criteria. Character evolution was studied by means of parsimony optimization and stochastic character mapping.
Key Results
Diervilla and Weigela (Diervilla clade) are characterized by several unique traits in Dipsacales, including capsules with numerous seeds, seed coats without sclerified outer tangential exotestal cell walls, and dehiscent fruits. Seeds with completely sclerified exotestal cells and fleshy fruits characterize the Lonicera clade. Leycesteria and Lonicera have berries, ovaries without sterile carpels and several seeds per locule, whereas Symphoricarpos and Triosteum have drupes, ovaries with one or two sterile carpels and a single seed per locule. Heptacodium shares several characteristics with members of the Linnina clade, e.g. achenes, single-seeded fruits and a compressed, parenchymatous seed coat.
The results confirm the monophyly of the Diervilla and Lonicera clades and allow us to hypothesize a close relationship between Leycesteria and Lonicera and between Symphoricarpos and Triosteum. Fruit and seed morphology and anatomy point to a sister relationship of Heptacodium with the Linnina clade, rather than with the Lonicera clade.
PMCID: PMC2710890  PMID: 19502353
Diervilla; Weigela; Symphoricarpos; Lonicera; Triosteum; Leycesteria; Heptacodium; Caprifoliaceae; Dipsacales; fruit; seed; evolution
5.  Woodiness within the Spermacoceae–Knoxieae alliance (Rubiaceae): retention of the basal woody condition in Rubiaceae or recent innovation? 
Annals of Botany  2009;103(7):1049-1064.
Background and Aims
The tribe Spermacoceae is essentially a herbaceous Rubiaceae lineage, except for some species that can be described as ‘woody’ herbs, small shrubs to treelets, or lianas. Its sister tribe Knoxieae contains a large number of herbaceous taxa, but the number of woody taxa is higher compared to Spermacoceae. The occurrence of herbaceous and woody species within the same group raises the question whether the woody taxa are derived from herbaceous taxa (i.e. secondary woodiness), or whether woodiness represents the ancestral state (i.e. primary woodiness). Microscopic observations of wood anatomy are combined with an independent molecular phylogeny to answer this question.
Observations of wood anatomy of 21 woody Spermacoceae and eight woody Knoxieae species, most of them included in a multi-gene molecular phylogeny, are carried out using light microscopy.
Key Results
Observations of wood anatomy in Spermacoceae support the molecular hypothesis that all the woody species examined are secondary derived. Well-known wood anatomical characters that demonstrate this shift from the herbaceous to the woody habit are the typically flat or decreasing length vs. age curves for vessel elements, the abundance of square and upright ray cells, or even the (near-) absence of rays. These so-called paedomorphic wood features are also present in the Knoxieae genera Otiophora, Otomeria, Pentas, Pentanisia and Phyllopentas. However, the wood structure of the other Knoxieae genera observed (Carphalea, Dirichletia and Triainolepis) is typical of primarily woody taxa.
In Spermacoceae, secondary woodiness has evolved numerous times in strikingly different habitats. In Knoxieae, there is a general trend from primary woodiness towards herbaceousness and back to (secondary) woodiness.
PMCID: PMC2707911  PMID: 19279041
Knoxieae; LM; primary woodiness; Rubiaceae; Rubioideae; secondary woodiness; Spermacoceae; wood anatomy
6.  Floral and Inflorescence Morphology and Ontogeny in Beta vulgaris, with Special Emphasis on the Ovary Position 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(4):643-651.
Background and Aims
In spite of recent phylogenetic analyses for the Chenopodiaceae–Amaranthaceae complex, some morphological characters are not unambiguously interpreted, which raises homology questions. Therefore, ontogenetic investigations, emphasizing on ‘bracteoles’ in Atripliceae and flowers in Chenopodioideae, were conducted. This first paper presents original ontogenetic observations in Beta vulgaris, which was chosen as a reference species for further comparative investigation because of its unclarified phylogenetic position and its flowers with a (semi-)inferior ovary, whereas all other Chenopodiaceae–Amaranthaceae have hypogynous flowers.
Inflorescences and flowers were examined using scanning electron microscopy and light microscopy.
Key Results
Floral development starts from an inflorescence unit primordium subtended by a lateral bract. This primordium develops into a determinate axis on which two opposite lateral flowers originate, each subtended by a bracteole. On a flower primordium, first five tepal primordia appear, followed by five opposite stamen primordia. Simultaneously, a convex floral apex appears, which differentiates into an annular ovary primordium with three stigma primordia, surrounding a central, single ovule. A floral tube, which raises the outer floral whorls, envelops the ovary, resulting in a semi-inferior ovary at mature stage. Similarly, a stamen tube is formed, raising the insertion points of the stamens, and forming a staminal ring, which does not contain stomata. During floral development, the calyces of the terminal flower and of one of the lateral flowers often fuse, forming a compound fruit structure.
In Beta vulgaris, the inflorescence is compound, consisting of an indeterminate main axis with many elementary dichasia as inflorescence units, of which the terminal flower and one lateral flower fuse at a later stage. Floral parts develop starting from the outer whorl towards the gynoecium. Because of the formation of an epigynous hypanthium, the ovary becomes semi-inferior in the course of floral development.
PMCID: PMC2701786  PMID: 18694878
Beta vulgaris; Chenopodiaceae; floral ontogeny; gynoecial development; epigynous hypanthium; semi-inferior ovary; inflorescence ontogeny; LM; SEM

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