The origin and diversification of angiosperms

Am J Bot. 2004 Oct;91(10):1614-26. doi: 10.3732/ajb.91.10.1614.


The angiosperms, one of five groups of extant seed plants, are the largest group of land plants. Despite their relatively recent origin, this clade is extremely diverse morphologically and ecologically. However, angiosperms are clearly united by several synapomorphies. During the past 10 years, higher-level relationships of the angiosperms have been resolved. For example, most analyses are consistent in identifying Amborella, Nymphaeaceae, and Austrobaileyales as the basalmost branches of the angiosperm tree. Other basal lineages include Chloranthaceae, magnoliids, and monocots. Approximately three quarters of all angiosperm species belong to the eudicot clade, which is strongly supported by molecular data but united morphologically by a single synapomorphy-triaperturate pollen. Major clades of eudicots include Ranunculales, which are sister to all other eudicots, and a clade of core eudicots, the largest members of which are Saxifragales, Caryophyllales, rosids, and asterids. Despite rapid progress in resolving angiosperm relationships, several significant problems remain: (1) relationships among the monocots, Chloranthaceae, magnoliids, and eudicots, (2) branching order among basal eudicots, (3) relationships among the major clades of core eudicots, (4) relationships within rosids, (5) relationships of the many lineages of parasitic plants, and (6) integration of fossils with extant taxa into a comprehensive tree of angiosperm phylogeny.