Inflorescence diversification in the panicoid "bristle grass" clade (Paniceae, Poaceae): Evidence from molecular phylogenies and developmental morphology

Andrew N. Doust, Elizabeth A. Kellogg

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123 Scopus citations


Grasses exhibit a great variety of inflorescence forms and these appear homoplasious when mapped onto cladograms. The overall pattern is sufficiently complex that it is difficult to analyze inflorescence evolution. We have reduced the complexity of the problem by examining one group of grasses, the panicoid "bristle clade," which exhibits a less complex pattern of variation. The clade is morphologically defined by inflorescences bearing both spikelets and sterile bristles and is monophyletic in both morphological and molecular phylogenetic analyses. We have constructed a chloroplast DNA phylogeny of the three main genera, which finds three well-supported clades, two comprising species placed in Setaria and one of Pennisetum + Cenchrus. In this tree Cenchrus is monophyletic, but both Setaria and Pennisetum are paraphyletic. Developmental morphology of these groups is very similar at early stages. Changes in axis ramification, primordial differentiation, and axis elongation account for most variation in mature inflorescence morphology. Characters derived from comparisons of developmental sequences were optimized onto one of the most parsimonious trees. Most developmental characters were congruent with the molecular phylogeny except for three reversals in the subclade containing S. barbata, S. palmifolia, and two accessions of S. poiretiana. Changes in just a handful of developmental events account for inflorescence evolution in the bristle clade, and similar changes may account for inflorescence diversity in the grasses as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1203-1222
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2002


  • Cenchrus
  • Development
  • Inflorescence
  • Morphology
  • Pennisetum
  • Phylogeny
  • Poaceae
  • Setaria


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