Molecular phylogeny of the moonseed family (Menispermaceae): Implications for morphological diversification

Rosa Del C. Ortiz, Elizabeth A. Kellogg, Henk Van Der Werff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


We used the chloroplast gene ndhF to reconstruct the phylogeny of the moonseed family (Menispermaceae), a morphologically diverse and poorly known cosmopolitan family of dioecious, primarily climbing plants. This study includes a worldwide sample of DNA sequences for 88 species representing 49 of the 70 genera of all eight traditionally recognized tribes. Phylogenetic relationships were estimated, and the Shimodaira-Hasegawa test was used to compare the likelihood of alternative phylogenetic hypotheses and to evaluate the monophyly of tribes currently in use. The monospecific Indo-Malesian Tinomiscium is sister to the remaining members of the family, within which are two major clades. Within these two clades, well-supported clades correspond to four of the eight traditionally recognized tribes, while others, such as Menispermeae, are polyphyletic. Mapping of major morphological characters on the phylogeny indicates that the crescent-shaped seed is derived from a straight seed, the tree habit has arisen multiple times, endosperm has been lost many times, but unicarpellate flowers evolved only once. Morphological synapomorphies for Menispermaceae include the presence of a condyle, a large embryo, and druplets. The phylogeny provides for the first time a detailed molecular-based assessment of relationships in Menispermaceae and clarifies our understanding of morphological diversification within the family.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1425-1438
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Menispermaceae
  • Moonseed
  • ndhF
  • Phylogeny
  • Ranunculales
  • Synandrium


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