EMBRYOPSIDA Pirani & Prado

Gametophyte dominant, independent, multicellular, initially ±globular, not motile, branched; showing gravitropism; acquisition of phenylalanine lysase* [PAL], flavonoid synthesis*, microbial terpene synthase-like genes +, triterpenoids produced by CYP716 enzymes, phenylpropanoid metabolism [development of phenolic network], xyloglucans in primary cell wall, side chains charged; plant poikilohydrous [protoplasm dessication tolerant], ectohydrous [free water outside plant physiologically important]; thalloid, leafy, with single-celled apical meristem, tissues little differentiated, rhizoids +, unicellular; chloroplasts several per cell, pyrenoids 0; glycolate metabolism in leaf peroxisomes [glyoxysomes]; centrioles/centrosomes in vegetative cells 0, microtubules with γ-tubulin along their lengths [?here], interphase microtubules form hoop-like system; metaphase spindle anastral, predictive preprophase band + [with microtubules and F-actin; where new cell wall will form], phragmoplast + [cell wall deposition centrifugal, from around the anaphase spindle], plasmodesmata +; antheridia and archegonia +, jacketed*, surficial; blepharoplast +, centrioles develop de novo, bicentriole pair coaxial, separate at midpoint, centrioles rotate, associated with basal bodies of cilia, multilayered structure + [4 layers: L1, L4, tubules; L2, L3, short vertical lamellae] (0), spline + [tubules from L1 encircling spermatid], basal body 200-250 nm long, associated with amorphous electron-dense material, microtubules in basal end lacking symmetry, stellate array of filaments in transition zone extended, axonemal cap 0 [microtubules disorganized at apex of cilium]; male gametes [spermatozoids] with a left-handed coil, cilia 2, lateral; oogamy; sporophyte +*, multicellular, growth 3-dimensional*, cuticle +*, plane of first cell division transverse [with respect to long axis of archegonium/embryo sac], sporangium and upper part of seta developing from epibasal cell [towards the archegonial neck, exoscopic], with at least transient apical cell [?level], initially surrounded by and dependent on gametophyte, placental transfer cells +, in both sporophyte and gametophyte, wall ingrowths develop early; suspensor/foot +, cells at foot tip somewhat haustorial; sporangium +, single, terminal, dehiscence longitudinal; meiosis sporic, monoplastidic, MTOC [MTOC = microtubule organizing centre] associated with plastid, sporocytes 4-lobed, cytokinesis simultaneous, preceding nuclear division, quadripolar microtubule system +; wall development both centripetal and centrifugal, 1000 spores/sporangium, sporopollenin in the spore wall* laid down in association with trilamellar layers [white-line centred lamellae; tripartite lamellae]; nuclear genome [1C] <1.4 pg, main telomere sequence motif TTTAGGG, KNOX1 and KNOX2 [duplication] and LEAFY genes present, ethylene involved in cell elongation; chloroplast genome with close association between trnLUAA and trnFGAA genes [precursors for starch synthesis], tufA gene moved to nucleus; mitochondrial trnS(gcu) and trnN(guu) genes +.

Many of the bolded characters in the characterization above are apomorphies of subsets of streptophytes along the lineage leading to the embryophytes, not apomorphies of crown-group embryophytes per se.

All groups below are crown groups, nearly all are extant. Characters mentioned are those of the immediate common ancestor of the group, [] contains explanatory material, () features common in clade, exact status unclear.


Abscisic acid, L- and D-methionine distinguished metabolically; pro- and metaphase spindles acentric; class 1 KNOX genes expressed in sporangium alone; sporangium wall 4≤ cells across [≡ eusporangium], tapetum +, secreting sporopollenin, which obscures outer white-line centred lamellae, columella +, developing from endothecial cells; stomata +, on sporangium, anomocytic, cell lineage that produces them with symmetric divisions [perigenous]; underlying similarities in the development of conducting tissue and of rhizoids/root hairs; spores trilete; shoot meristem patterning gene families expressed; MIKC, MI*K*C* genes, post-transcriptional editing of chloroplast genes; gain of three group II mitochondrial introns, mitochondrial trnS(gcu) and trnN(guu) genes 0.

[Anthocerophyta + Polysporangiophyta]: gametophyte leafless; archegonia embedded/sunken [only neck protruding]; sporophyte long-lived, chlorophyllous; cell walls with xylans.


Sporophyte well developed, branched, branching apical, dichotomous, potentially indeterminate; hydroids +; stomata on stem; sporangia several, terminal; spore walls not multilamellate [?here].


Vascular tissue + [tracheids, walls with bars of secondary thickening]; stomata numerous, involved in gas exchange.


Sporophyte with photosynthetic red light response, stomata open in response to blue light; plant homoiohydrous [water content of protoplasm relatively stable]; control of leaf hydration passive; plant endohydrous [physiologically important free water inside plant]; sporophyte with polar auxin transport, PIN [auxin efflux facilitator] involved; (condensed or nonhydrolyzable tannins/proanthocyanidins +); xyloglucans with side chains uncharged [?level], in secondary walls of vascular and mechanical tissue; lignins +; roots +, root hairs and root cap +; stem apex multicellular [several apical initials, no tunica], with cytohistochemical zonation, plasmodesmata formation based on cell lineage; vascular development acropetal, tracheids +, in both protoxylem and metaxylem, G- and S-types; sieve cells + [nucleus degenerating]; endodermis +; leaves/sporophylls spirally arranged, blades with mean venation density ca 1.8 mm/mm2 [to 5 mm/mm2], all epidermal cells with chloroplasts; sporangia adaxial, columella 0; tapetum glandular; ?position of transfer cells; MTOCs not associated with plastids, basal body 350-550 nm long, stellate array in transition region initially joining microtubule triplets; suspensor +, shoot apex developing away from micropyle/archegonial neck [from hypobasal cell, endoscopic], root lateral with respect to the longitudinal axis of the embryo [plant homorhizic].


Sporophyte growth ± monopodial, branching spiral; roots endomycorrhizal [with Glomeromycota],lateral roots +, endogenous; G-type tracheids +, with scalariform-bordered pits; leaves with apical/marginal growth, venation development basipetal, growth determinate; sporangium dehiscence by a single longitudinal slit; cells polyplastidic, MTOCs diffuse, perinuclear, migratory; blepharoplasts +, paired, with electron-dense material, centrioles on periphery, male gametes multiciliate; nuclear genome size [1C] = 7.6-10 pg [mode]; chloroplast long single copy ca 30kb inversion [from psbM to ycf2]; mitochondrion with loss of 4 genes, absence of numerous group II introns; LITTLE ZIPPER proteins.


Sporophyte woody; stem branching lateral, meristems axillary; lateral root origin from the pericycle; cork cambium + [producing cork abaxially], vascular cambium bifacial [producing phloem abaxially and xylem adaxially].


Growth of plant bipolar [roots with positive geotropic response]; plants heterosporous; megasporangium surrounded by cupule [i.e. = unitegmic ovule, cupule = integument]; pollen lands on ovule; megaspore germination endosporic [female gametophyte initially retained on the plant].


Plant evergreen; nicotinic acid metabolised to trigonelline, (cyanogenesis via tyrosine pathway); microbial terpene synthase-like genes 0; primary cell walls rich in xyloglucans and/or glucomannans, 25-30% pectin [Type I walls]; lignin chains started by monolignol dimerization [resinols common], particularly with guaiacyl and p-hydroxyphenyl [G + H] units [sinapyl units uncommon, no Maüle reaction]; root stele diarch to pentarch, xylem and phloem originating on alternating radii, cork cambium deep seated; stem apical meristem complex [with quiescent centre, etc.], plasmodesma density in SAM 1.6-6.2[mean]/μm2 [interface-specific plasmodesmatal network]; eustele +, protoxylem endarch, endodermis 0; wood homoxylous, tracheids and rays alone, tracheid/tracheid pits circular, bordered; mature sieve tube/cell lacking functioning nucleus, sieve tube plastids with starch grains; phloem fibres +; cork cambium superficial; leaf nodes 1:1, a single trace leaving the vascular sympodium; leaf vascular bundles amphicribral; guard cells the only epidermal cells with chloroplasts, stomatal pore with active opening in response to leaf hydration, control by abscisic acid, metabolic regulation of water use efficiency, etc.; axillary buds +, exogenous; prophylls two, lateral; leaves with petiole and lamina, development basipetal, lamina simple; sporangia borne on sporophylls; spores not dormant; microsporophylls aggregated in indeterminate cones/strobili; grains monosulcate, aperture in ana- position [distal], primexine + [involved in exine pattern formation with deposition of sporopollenin from tapetum there], exine and intine homogeneous, exine alveolar/honeycomb; ovules with parietal tissue [= crassinucellate], megaspore tetrad linear, functional megaspore single, chalazal, sporopollenin 0; gametophyte ± wholly dependent on sporophyte, development initially endosporic [apical cell 0, rhizoids 0, etc.]; male gametophyte with tube developing from distal end of grain, male gametes two, developing after pollination, with cell walls; female gametophyte initially syncytial, walls then surrounding individual nuclei; embryo cellular ab initio, suspensor short-minute, embryonic axis straight [shoot and root at opposite ends; plant allorhizic], cotyledons 2; embryo ± dormant; chloroplast ycf2 gene in inverted repeat, trans splicing of five mitochondrial group II introns, rpl6 gene absent; whole nuclear genome duplication [ζ - zeta - duplication], two copies of LEAFY gene, PHY gene duplications [three - [BP [A/N + C/O]] - copies], 5.8S and 5S rDNA in separate clusters.


Lignans, O-methyl flavonols, dihydroflavonols, triterpenoid oleanane, apigenin and/or luteolin scattered, [cyanogenesis in ANA grade?], lignin also with syringyl units common [G + S lignin, positive Maüle reaction - syringyl:guaiacyl ratio more than 2-2.5:1], hemicelluloses as xyloglucans; root cap meristem closed (open); pith relatively inconspicuous, lateral roots initiated immediately to the side of [when diarch] or opposite xylem poles; origin of epidermis with no clear pattern [probably from inner layer of root cap], trichoblasts [differentiated root hair-forming cells] 0, hypodermis suberised and with Casparian strip [= exodermis]; shoot apex with tunica-corpus construction, tunica 2-layered; starch grains simple; primary cell wall mostly with pectic polysaccharides, poor in mannans; tracheid:tracheid [end wall] plates with scalariform pitting, wood parenchyma +; sieve tubes enucleate, sieve plate with pores (0.1-)0.5-10< µm across, cytoplasm with P-proteins, not occluding pores of plate, companion cell and sieve tube from same mother cell; ?phloem loading/sugar transport; nodes 1:?; dark reversal Pfr → Pr; protoplasm dessication tolerant [plant poikilohydric]; stomata randomly oriented, brachyparacytic [ends of subsidiary cells level with ends of pore], outer stomatal ledges producing vestibule, reduction in stomatal conductance with increasing CO2 concentration; lamina formed from the primordial leaf apex, margins toothed, development of venation acropetal, overall growth ± diffuse, secondary veins pinnate, fine venation hierarchical-reticulate, (1.7-)4.1(-5.7) mm/mm2, vein endings free; flowers perfect, pedicellate, ± haplomorphic, protogynous; parts free, numbers variable, development centripetal; T +, petal-like, each with a single trace, outer members not sharply differentiated from the others, not enclosing the floral bud; A many, filament not sharply distinguished from anther, stout, broad, with a single trace, anther introrse, tetrasporangiate, sporangia in two groups of two [dithecal], each theca dehiscing longitudinally by a common slit, ± embedded in the filament, walls with at least outer secondary parietal cells dividing, endothecium +, cells elongated at right angles to long axis of anther; tapetal cells binucleate; microspore mother cells in a block, microsporogenesis successive, walls developing by centripetal furrowing; pollen subspherical, tectum continuous or microperforate, ektexine columellate, endexine lamellate only in the apertural regions, thin, compact, intine in apertural areas thick, pollenkitt +; nectary 0; carpels present, superior, free, several, spiral, ascidiate [postgenital occlusion by secretion], stylulus at most short [shorter than ovary], hollow, cavity not lined by distinct epidermal layer, stigma ± decurrent, carinal, dry; suprastylar extragynoecial compitum +; ovules few [?1]/carpel, marginal, anatropous, bitegmic, micropyle endostomal, outer integument 2-3 cells across, often largely subdermal in origin, inner integument 2-3 cells across, often dermal in origin, parietal tissue 1-3 cells across, nucellar cap?; megasporocyte single, hypodermal, functional megaspore lacking cuticle; female gametophyte lacking chlorophyll, four-celled [one module, nucleus of egg cell sister to one of the polar nuclei]; ovule not increasing in size between pollination and fertilization; pollen grains bicellular at dispersal, germinating in less than 3 hours, siphonogamy, pollen tube unbranched, growing towards the ovule, between cells, growth rate (20-)80-20,000 µm/hour, apex of pectins, wall with callose, lumen with callose plugs, penetration of ovules via micropyle [porogamous], whole process takes ca 18 hours, distance to first ovule 1.1-2.1 mm; male gametophytes tricellular, gametes 2, lacking cell walls, ciliae 0, double fertilization +, ovules aborting unless fertilized; P deciduous in fruit; mature seed much larger than fertilized ovule, small [<5 mm long], dry [no sarcotesta], exotestal; endosperm +, ?diploid, cellular, development heteropolar [first division oblique, micropylar end initially with a single large cell, divisions uniseriate, chalazal cell smaller, divisions in several planes], copious, oily and/or proteinaceous, embryo short [<¼ length of seed]; plastid and mitochondrial transmission maternal; Arabidopsis-type telomeres [(TTTAGGG)n]; nuclear genome [1C] <1.4 pg [mean 1C = 18.1 pg, 1 pg = 109 base pairs], whole nuclear genome duplication [ε/epsilon event]; ndhB gene 21 codons enlarged at the 5' end, single copy of LEAFY and RPB2 gene, knox genes extensively duplicated [A1-A4], AP1/FUL gene, palaeo AP3 and PI genes [paralogous B-class genes] +, with "DEAER" motif, SEP3/LOFSEP and three copies of the PHY gene, [PHYB [PHYA + PHYC]]; chloroplast chlB, -L, -N, trnP-GGG genes 0.

[NYMPHAEALES [AUSTROBAILEYALES [[CHLORANTHALES + MAGNOLIIDS] [MONOCOTS [CERATOPHYLLALES + EUDICOTS]]]]]: wood fibres +; axial parenchyma diffuse or diffuse-in-aggregates; pollen monosulcate [anasulcate], tectum reticulate-perforate [here?]; ?genome duplication; "DEAER" motif in AP3 and PI genes lost, gaps in these genes.

[AUSTROBAILEYALES [[CHLORANTHALES + MAGNOLIIDS] [MONOCOTS [CERATOPHYLLALES + EUDICOTS]]]]: phloem loading passive, via symplast, plasmodesmata numerous; vessel elements with scalariform perforation plates in primary xylem; essential oils in specialized cells [lamina and P ± pellucid-punctate]; tension wood + [reaction wood: with gelatinous fibres, G-fibres, on adaxial side of branch/stem junction]; anther wall with outer secondary parietal cell layer dividing; tectum reticulate; nucellar cap + [character lost where in eudicots?]; 12BP [4 amino acids] deletion in P1 gene.

[[CHLORANTHALES + MAGNOLIIDS] [MONOCOTS [CERATOPHYLLALES + EUDICOTS]]] / MESANGIOSPERMAE: benzylisoquinoline alkaloids +; sesquiterpene synthase subfamily a [TPS-a] [?level], polyacetate derived anthraquinones + [?level]; outer epidermal walls of root elongation zone with cellulose fibrils oriented transverse to root axis; P more or less whorled, 3-merous [?here]; pollen tube growth intra-gynoecial; extragynoecial compitum 0; carpels plicate [?here]; embryo sac bipolar, 8 nucleate, antipodal cells persisting; endosperm triploid.

[MONOCOTS [CERATOPHYLLALES + EUDICOTS]]: (extra-floral nectaries +); (veins in lamina often 7-17 mm/mm2 or more [mean for eudicots 8.0]); (stamens opposite [two whorls of] P); (pollen tube growth fast).

[CERATOPHYLLALES + EUDICOTS]: ethereal oils 0.

EUDICOTS: (Myricetin, delphinidin +), asarone 0 [unknown in some groups, + in some asterids]; root epidermis derived from root cap [?Buxaceae, etc.]; (vessel elements with simple perforation plates in primary xylem); nodes 3:3; stomata anomocytic; flowers (dimerous), cyclic; protandry common; K/outer P members with three traces, ("C" +, with a single trace); A ?, filaments fairly slender, anthers basifixed; microsporogenesis simultaneous, pollen tricolpate, apertures in pairs at six points of the young tetrad [Fischer's rule], cleavage centripetal, wall with endexine; G with complete postgenital fusion, stylulus/style solid [?here]; seed coat?

[PROTEALES [TROCHODENDRALES [BUXALES + CORE EUDICOTS]]]: (axial/receptacular nectary +).

[TROCHODENDRALES [BUXALES + CORE EUDICOTS]]: benzylisoquinoline alkaloids 0; euAP3 + TM6 genes [duplication of paleoAP3 gene: B class], mitochondrial rps2 gene lost.

[BUXALES + CORE EUDICOTS]: mitochondrial rps11 gene lost.

CORE EUDICOTS / GUNNERIDAE: (ellagic and gallic acids +); leaf margins serrate; compitum + [one position]; micropyle?; γ whole nuclear genome duplication [palaeohexaploidy, gamma triplication], x = 21, PI-dB motif +; small deletion in the 18S ribosomal DNA common.

[ROSIDS ET AL. + ASTERIDS ET AL.] / PENTAPETALAE: root apical meristem closed; (cyanogenesis also via [iso]leucine, valine and phenylalanine pathways); flowers rather stereotyped: 5-merous, parts whorled; P = calyx + corolla, the calyx enclosing the flower in bud, sepals with three or more traces, petals with a single trace; stamens = 2x K/C, in two whorls, internal/adaxial to the corolla whorl, alternating, (numerous, but then usually fasciculate and/or centrifugal); pollen tricolporate; G [5], (G [3, 4]), whorled, placentation axile, style +, stigma not decurrent; compitum +; endosperm nuclear; fruit dry, dehiscent, loculicidal [when a capsule]; RNase-based gametophytic incompatibility system present; floral nectaries with CRABSCLAW expression; (monosymmetric flowers with adaxial/dorsal CYC expression).

[DILLENIALES [SAXIFRAGALES [VITALES + ROSIDS s. str.]]]: stipules + [usually apparently inserted on the stem].


[VITALES + ROSIDS] / ROSIDAE: anthers ± dorsifixed, transition to filament narrow, connective thin.

ROSIDS   Back to Main Tree

(Mucilage cells with thickened inner periclinal walls and distinct cytoplasm); if nectary +, usu. receptacular; embryo long; chloroplast infA gene defunct, mitochondrial coxII.i3 intron 0.

Age. The age of this node was estimated at (113-)109, 104(-100) m.y. by Wikström et al. (2001). Hengcheng Wang et al. (2009) suggested an age of (114-)108, 91(-85) m.y.a. or (116-)114, 113(-110) m.y. ago. Magallón and Castillo (2009) suggested ages of ca 107.9 and 108.4 m.y., Moore et al. (2010: 95% HPD) ages of (110-)106(-103) m.y., Bell et al. (2010) ages of (121-)116, 114(-108) m.y., Clarke et al. (2011: Populus + Arabidopsis) an age of (115-)94((-83) m.y., and Sun et al. (2013 ages of 11-108 m. years. In a study using a small sample of nuclear genomes, Argout et al. (2010) gave an age of ca 90 m.y. while the estimate in N. Zhang et al. (2012) is (103-)99(-94) m.y. and in Xue et al. (2012) 90.4-89.1 m.y.a.; ages in Schneider et al. (2004) range from about 110-167 m.y., while ages of around 106.3 m.y.a. are provided by Naumann et al. (2013), ca 96 m.y.a. is the age suggested by Sytsma et al. (2014), ca 122 m.y. by Hohmann et al. (2015: fabids + malvids alone), 116-103 m.y. (Zeng et al. 2017: no Zyg.), ca 124 m.y. (Foster et al. 2016a: no Zyg.); the oldest, at at around 150 m.y., is that of Z. Wu et al. (2014), while the youngest, at ca 69 m.y.a., was proposed by Murat et al. (2015b: fab. + mal.).

Poinar et al. (2007, 2008) found a possible rosid fossil from Myanmar/Burma with a floral formula of K 5, C ?, A 10, G [5], styles diverging. It was thought that the rocks in which it was found were 110-100 m.y.o., but recent estimates are somewhat younger, being Early Cenomanian and (99.4-)98.8(-98.2) m.y.o. (Shi et al. 2012).

Evolution: Divergence & Distribution. Sharkey et al. (2013) suggested that there was a single origin of isoprene emission around here, but this was followed by multiple losses; they link the origin to the high atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the later Cretaceous.

Plant-Animal Interactions. Redfern (2011) notes that Cynipinae gall wasps are common on rosids, particularly on Rosaceae and Fagaceae.

Bacterial/Fungal Associations. Brundrett (2002) suggested that ectomycorrhize were most common is rosids, rare elsewhere (e.g. Nyctaginaceae), although modified forms dominate in Ericales and Orchidales.

Chemistry, Morphology, etc. For the distribution of mucilage cells with thickened inner periclinal walls and distinct cytoplasm ("special mucilage cells"), see Matthews and Endress (2006b), for floral development, see Schönenberger and von Balthazar (2006), and for the distribution of a number of floral features, see Endress and Matthews (2006a).

Phylogeny. See the Dilleniales and Saxifragales pages for further discussion on the major patterns of relationships within Pentapetalae, particularly the basal branches.

D. Soltis et al. (2003a) found 79% support for rosids s.s., i.e., lacking Vitales and Saxifragales. Within rosids s. str., relationships have been somewhat unclear (e.g. Soltis et al. 2005b; Jansen et al. 2006a; Bausher at al. 2006; Zhu et al. 2007; versions of this site up to March 2009), but the topology is being clarified (e.g. Hengcheng Wang et al. 2009). The relationships of the rosid I clade (= [fabid/N-fixing clade + [Celastrales [Oxalidales + Malpighiales]]], the latter is the COM clade) have been particularly problematical. In an analysis including the mitochondrial matR and two chloroplast genes, the COM clade were sister to the fabids/N-fixing clade, with weak to moderate support; Crossosomatales were weakly supported as sister to the rosid II clade (= malvids) (Zhu et al. 2007). Jansen et al. (2007) recovered a malvid clade with strong support (weaker using maximum parsimony), in turn strongly supported as sister to the [COM + fabid] clade, albeit with sketchy sampling. Ruhfel et al. (2014) recovered a variety of relationships around here, including a [COM + fabid] clade, and Z. Wu et al. (2014: chloroplast genomes) also recovered a [COM + fabid] clade, and with Zygophyllaceae sister to the former.

However, in some analyses of four mitochondrial genes, Qiu et al. (2010) found that the [COM + fabid] clade was not monophyletic, there being quite strong support for a [COM + malvid] clade (see also Duarte et al. 2010; Burleigh et al. 2011). Consistent with such ideas, in an analysis of 154 protein-coding genes Shulaev et al. (2011) found that Populus was sister to [Carica + Arabidopsis], rather than to the four taxa from the nitrogen-fixing clade included in the study, and the same basic relationships were found by E. K. Lee et al. (2011: better sampling, but no Celastrales or Oxalidales). Burleigh et al. (2011) in a genome-level analysis found that Malpighiales were embedded in the malvids, although again no representatives of Celastrales or Oxalidales were examined (see also Duarte et al. 2010). Similar relationships were rejected by all tests in the combined analysis of Zhu et al. (2007), although they were found in the analysis of matR data alone.

Soltis et al. (2011) discussed the influence of mitochondrial genes on relationships in this part of the tree; mitochondrial genes alone placed a weakly supported COM clade as sister to core malvids with quite strong support. In analyses of large amounts of chloroplast data Malpighiales grouped with the N-fixing clade, while in analyses of nuclear data they grouped with the malvids (Xi et al. 2014). A [COM + malvid] clade was also obtained (just) in an analysis of 31 (30 eudicot) complete chloroplast genomes (Fajardo et al. 2013).

Thus the COM clade in general, or Malpighiales in particular, do not have stable relationships. In an important study by M. Sun et al. (2014, see also 2016) the sampling of taxa with genome data from different compartments was matched as carefully as possible. They found that a [COM + fabid] clade was obtained in analyses of chloroplast data, while a [COM + malvid] clade was recovered in analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear data. (The mitochondrial tree showed a number of idiosyncracies, e.g. Lonicera was sister to other campanulid taxa included, Crossosomatales and Zygophyllales formed a clade outside the [fabid [COM + malvid]] clade, Garryaceae and Aquifoliaceae switched positions, Platanus was sister to Ranunculales, etc., although overall support values for those positions were very low). Sun et al. (2014) suggested that the COM clade might be the result of a very ancient hybridization between a fabid and malvid, with the chloroplast genes coming from the former and much of the rest of the genome from the latter, an idea supported by the much larger number of nuclear genes that grouped with the malvids rather than the fabids. The inclusion of Caryophyllales within rosids s.l. was slightly disconcerting, and the absence of clades like Picramniales and in particular Dilleniaceae may affect some placements. Zeng et al. (2014: 59 genes, 61 taxa) also placed the COM clade (Malpighiales alone included) as sister to the malvids, however, in other analyses they retrieved a [COM + fabid] clade (ibid.: suppl. Fig 14: plastid genes). L. Zhao et al. (2016) also recovered relationships similar to those of Sun et al. (2014) - [[[Celastrales + Malpighiales] [Oxalidales + malvids]] [fabids]] - in a large-scale analysis of nuclear genes.

Endress and Matthews (2006a; also Endress et al. 2013) suggested that some morphological characters are consistent with the relationships [[COM + malvids] fabids]. These include the frequency of features such as a contorted corolla and polystaminate androecium and polycarpy, while the inner integument also tends to be thicker than the outer integument in the [COM + malvid] clade.

Relationships of Zygophyllales have been unclear. Hilu et al. (2003: rbcL) found that Larrea (Zygophyllaceae) was weakly associated with Fabaceae, the only member of Fabales they included; they noted that the possession of anthroquinones was a possible synapomorphy between Zygophyllaceae and the N-fixing clade (see also Sheahan & Chase 2000). The position of Zygophyllales was rather labile in the comprehensive analysis of H. Wang et al. (2009). They sometimes appeared to be linked with the malvids (maximum parsimony), or sometimes sister to the whole rosid I/fabid clade, and with reasonable support (maximum likelihood), but the former position could be rejected (Wang et al. 2009). Bell et al. (2010) placed Zygophyllales in a polytomy with the COM and N-fixing clades (see also Magallón & Castillo 2009), and several recent analyses, including the 17-gene analysis of Soltis et al. (2011) are placing it sister to the [fabid + COM] clade (as here: see also Sun et al. 2013; Zeng et al. 2014: suppl. Fig. 14; Z.-D. Chen et al. 2016). Qiu et al. (2010: mitochondrial genes) recently suggested that Zygophyllales were embedded in Crossosomatales, but with only moderate support, the combined clade being sister to all rosids, while it is sister to the fabids in the plastid analyses of Sun et al. (2014). L. Zhao et al. (2016) found that Larrea tridentata, the only member of Zygophyllales that they included, was sister to a [[Celastrales + Malpighiales] [Oxalidales + malvids]] clade in coalescence analyses, but embedded in a [Geraniales + Myrtales] clade when concatenation was applied; although they preferred the first position, in neither case was support overwhelming. Analyses by Ruhfel et al. (2014) also found a rather peripatetic Zygophyllales.

The immediate relationships of the core malvids are unclear. Using mitochondrial and chloroplast genes, Zhu et al. (2007) found that Myrtales and Geraniales were successively sister to all other rosids - but with little support. S.-B. Lee et al. (2006) found some support for the clade [Geraniales + Myrtales] sister to the rosid I clade, although sampling was poor. Jansen et al. (2007; see also Z. Wu et al. 2014; Zeng et al. 2014: suppl. Fig. 14; Z.-D. Chen et al. 2016; Logacheva & Shipunov 2017: 100% support) recovered [Myrtales + Geraniales] as sister to the rosid II/malvids, albeit with weak support. Xi et al. (2014) found that Eucalyptus was weakly supported as sister to all rosids in analyses using nuclear data (see also Zeng et al. 2014: transcriptome data), while in analyses using chloroplast data, the genus was sister to the malvids, and with strong support, however, representatives of Geraniales were not included and sampling in general was a bit sketchy (this was not the main focus of their work). There is a fair amount of variation in relationships in this area in the trees provided by Sun et al. (2014), while L. Zhao et al. (2016) consistently recovered a [Geraniales + Myrtales] clade, whether with or without Zygophyllales, as sister to all the rosids, although support was not strong.

In a study in which the focus was on relationships along the spine of the Pentapetalae, Zeng et al. (2017) found that Oxalidales were sister to the malvids included or sister to the malvids minus Crossosomatales, but since no Geraniales, Myrtales, Picramniales, Huerteales or Zygophyllales were included, it is difficult to make much sense of this result.

ROSID I / FABIDAE / [ZYGOPHYLLALES [the COM clade + the nitrogen-fixing clade]]: endosperm scanty.   Back to Main Tree

Age. Argout et al. (2010) suggested a date for this clade of a mere ca 77 m.y., but this is surely an underestimate. Other ages for this node are (104-)101, 95(-92) m.y. (Wikström et al. 2001), (114-)108(-102) and (97-)91(-85) m.y. (Hengcheng Wang et al. 2009), while ages of (114-)107, 103(-99) m.y. were suggested by Bell et al. (2010), around 102.3 m.y. by Naumann et al. (2013) and ca 113 m.y. by Tank et al. (2015: Table S1).

Evolution: Divergence & Distribution. Hengcheng Wang et al. (2008: penalized likelihood dates) suggested that rapid radiation within Fabidae occurred (114-)108-91(-85) m.y.a., perhaps a little before that in Malvidae.

Chemistry, Morphology, etc. Extrafloral nectaries in this clade - perhaps particularly frequent in Malpighiales - commonly are made up of palisade epidermal cells (Zimmermann 1932).


Harman alkaloids, diversity of lignans and neolignans; mycorrhizae 0; cork cambium deep cortical or pericyclic (superficial); vessel elements with simple perforation plates; rays (predominantly) uniseriate; tension wood?; (stomatal orientation transverse); (pollen colpate); style +; micropyle endostomal; seeds ± exotestal; endosperm 0; chloroplast infA gene +. - 2 families, 24 genera, 345 species.

Age. Ages for crown group Zygophyllales are (88-)79(-70) or (64-)55(-46) m.y. (two penalized likelihood dates), but some Bayesian relaxed clock ages were up to 102 m.y. (Hengcheng Wang et al. 2009). Wikström et al. (2001) suggested an age for the separation of the two families of some (74-)70, 64(-60) m.y.a., and this age was estimated at (88-)70, 65(-45) m.y. by Bell et al. (2010), (93.4-)61.9(-29.3) m.y. by Naumann et al. (2013), and ca 83.5 m.y. by Tank et al. (2015: Table S2).

Note: Boldface denotes possible apomorphies, (....) denotes a feature common in the clade, exact status uncertain, [....] includes explanatory material. Note that the particular node to which many characters, particularly the more cryptic ones, should be assigned is unclear. This is partly because homoplasy is very common, in addition, basic information for all too many characters is very incomplete, frequently coming from taxa well embedded in the clade of interest and so making the position of any putative apomorphy uncertain. Then there are the not-so-trivial issues of how character states are delimited and ancestral states are reconstructed (see above).

Evolution. Bacterial/Fungal Associations. Mycorrhizae are usually absent from this clade, perhaps not unexpected, given their preference for arid/saline habitats. However, arbuscular mycorrhizae have been reported from roots of Larrea tridentat in the Mojave Desert (Apple et al. 2005); c.f. also Amaranthaceae.

Chemistry, Morphology, etc. For harman alkaloids, see Kubitzki (2006a); for lignans and neolignans, see Simpson (2006) and Sheahan (2006). Carlquist (2005b) lists several features of wood anatomy that may be synapomorphies for the group.

Phylogeny Zygophyllaceae have often been found to be sister to Krameriaceae, as in Soltis et al. (1998) and Savolainen et al. (2000a).

Classification. The inclusion of Krameriaceae in Zygophyllaceae was initially optional, although the two do not have much in common; see A.P.G. II (2003). The narrower circumscription of the families followed here was adopted by A.P.G. III (2009).

Includes Krameriaceae, Zygophyllaceae.

Synonymy: Balanitales C. Y. Wu, Krameriales Martius - Zygophyllanae Doweld

KRAMERIACEAE Dumortier, nom. cons.   Back to Zygophyllales


Hemiparasitic shrubs (thorny), (herbs); wood fluorescence?; nodes 1:1; petiole bundle (deeply) arcuate; hairs unicellular, thin-walled; stomata usu. paracytic; cuticle waxes ± ribbon-like platelets; leaves spiral, (trifoliolate), lamina margins entire, stipules 0; inflorescence racemose, or flowers solitary, pedicels articulated; flower monosymmetric, K (4) 5, petal-like internally, median member abaxial, larger than the others, (2, when 4-merous) or 3 adaxial C clawed, ± connate, 2 abaxial C smaller, not clawed, with elaiophores; A 4 (3), (adnate to adaxial C), anthers dehiscing by pores, endothecial cells with thickening parallel to long axis of cells, filaments often stout; pollen striate; nectary 0; G [2], adaxial member much reduced, style long, stigma small, recessed; ovules 2/carpel, apical, collateral, outer integument 3-6 cells and inner integument 3-5 cells across, suprachalazal zone massive; fruit a nut, with retrorsely barbed spines; seed 1, testa and tegmen ?weakly multiplicative, exotestal cells enlarged, tanniniferous, tegmen to 7 cells thick, largely disappearing; cotyledons large, cordate/auriculate; n = 6, chromosomes 10-24.6 µm long; seedlings without root hairs.

1 [list]/18. S.W. U.S.A. to Chile, the West Indies (map: from Simpson et al. 2004). [Photo - Flower © Jim Manhart, Fruit © Dan Nickrent.]

Age. The age of crown group Krameria has been estimated at (34-)12(-5) m.y. (Renner & Schaefer 2010).

Evolution: Pollination Biology. Bees (Centris) collect oil from the rather papilionoid-looking flowers. They hold on to the three adaxial petals and collect oil on their back legs from the epithelial elaiophores of the paired, abaxial petals (Vogel 1974; Simpson et al. 1977). Taxa with 4-merous flowers have only two adaxial petals.

Genes & Genomes. The rate of genome evolution here is rather slower than that of other parasitic taxa (Bromham et al. 2013).

Chemistry, Morphology, etc. The roots have a red phlobaphene pigment. There are no vessels in the leaves.

Simpson (1982, 2006) discussed the long controversy over the orientation of the flower, however, the flowers often appear to be inverted or obliquely oriented (see also Milby 1971, see Fig. 73 in Simpson 2006), although it is unclear if this is always so - the description above is of an inverted flower. The traces to the sepals, petals and stamens in the flower are all separate; the abaxial petals (elaiophores) are densely vascularized (Milby 1971).

For further details, see Simpson (1989, 2006: general information) and Carlquist (2005b: wood anatomy), Manning and Stirton (1994: endothecial thickenings), Leinfellner (1971: ovary), Verkeke (1985: ovule and seed), Leinfellner (1971) and especially Bello et al. (2012) for floral morphology, and The Parasitic Plant Collection and Heide-Jørgensen (2008) for more general information.

Phylogeny. Simpson et al. (2004) provide a phylogeny of the family.

Previous Relationships. Krameriaceae have often been considered to be close to Polygalaceae (Fabales), as by Cronquist (1981).

ZYGOPHYLLACEAE R. Brown, nom. cons.   Back to Zygophyllales


Trees to herbs; mycorrhizae absent; anthroquinones +, guaiacs +, steroid and triterpene saponins, ellagic acid 0, tannins 0 [Zygophyllum]; wood often fluorescing; storying +; pits vestured; nodes often swollen or jointed, 1:1 + split laterals; cortical strands of fibres and sclereids +; petiole bundle annular, with wing bundles; stomata anomocytic; leaves opposite, (odd-) even-pinnate (2, 3-foliolate), lamina vernation flat or, (secondary veins ± palmate), margins toothed, stipules cauline, or 1, interpetiolar (0); A obdiplostemonous; pollen variable; (nectary as basal scales adaxial to A); G [(2-)5], opposite petals, style short to long, stigma as commissural ridges down style, dry or wet; ovules 1-10/carpel, outer integument 2-6 cells across, inner integument 2-4 cells across, endothelium +, (weak nucellar cap +), parietal tissue 1-2(-4) cells across, hypostase +, obturator +; (megaspore mother cells several), embryo sac long; fruit a septicidal capsule or schizocarp, latter opening ventricidally or not; (seed arillate), funicle long [= length of seed]; exotesta often palisade, endotesta crystalliferous, U-lignified or not, endotegmic cells periclinally elongated, lignified; embryo chlorophyllous.

22[list]/325 (285) - 5 groups below. Dry and warm temperate, also tropical (map: from Trop. Afr. Fl. Pl. Ecol. Distr. 1. 2003; Beier et al. 2004; Brummitt 2007.)[Photo - Flower, Fruit.]

[Morkillioideae + Tribuloideae]: ?

1. Morkillioideae (Engler) Rose & J. H. Painter

Nodes 3:3; leaves spiral; (flowers opposite leaves), (terminal) (4-merous); aril +: ovules 1-several/carpel, epitropous; (endosperm +, hard); n = ?

3/4. Mexico, Baja California.

2. Tribuloideae (Reichenbach) D. H. Porter

(Annual herbs); (plant thorny); (nodes 3:3 - Balanites); (C4 photosynthesis); leaves (simple), (anisophyllous), (spiral); (pollen polyporate); (ovary 10-lobed); 1-10 ovules/carpel, (outer integument 4-8 cells across, inner integument 3-6 cells across - Balanites); (fruit a large drupe); n = 6, 10, 12, etc.

6/63: Tribulus (25), Kallstroemia (17). World-wide.

Synonymy: Agialidaceae Wettstein, nom. illeg., Balanitaceae M. Roemer nom. cons., Tribulaceae Trautvetter

[Seetzenioideae [Larreoideae + Zygophylloideae]]: ?

3. Seetzenioideae Sheahan & Chase

Prostrate herb; leaves trifoliate; flowers solitary, axillary; K with thickened median strip, C 0; A 5, alternating with K; styles/stigmas 5, radiating; ovule 1/carpel, epitropous, micropyle bistomal; outer integument 6-7 cells across, endothelium 0; fruit septicidal, with pyrenes; exotesta not thickened; endosperm +, stony: n + ?

1/1: Seetzenia lanata. S. Africa, N. Africa to Afghanistan.

[Larreoideae + Zygophylloideae]]: C clawed.

4. Larreoideae Sheahan & Chase

(Sieve tube plastids with protein and starch - Larrea); stamens often withbasal scales, ovary stipitate or not; fruit capsular, winged or not, 1 seed/loculus; endosperm +; n = 10, 13.

7/30: Bulnesia (8). S.W. U.S.A. and Mexico to South America.

5. Zygophylloideae (R. Brown) Arnott

(C4 photosynthesis); leaves (simple), often fleshy, (stipules spinescent), (intrapetiolar); (flowers monosymmetric); nectary as disc, or scales at base of stamens; (G 3), (pseudo 10-locular); ovules 1-many/carpel; (outer integument ca 2 cells across, inner integument ca 2 cells across - Zygophyllum); (fruit loculicidal), (K persistent); (seed arillate), (hilum long); testa often mucilaginous; (endosperm +); 192 BP deletion in trnL AAA intron; n = 7-12.

6/180: Roepera (60), Zygophyllum (50), Tetraena (40), Fagonia (30). Mostly drier areas of the Old World, also S.W. U. S. A. and Chile.

Evolution: Divergence & Distribution. Relationships within Fagonia, widely disjunct between the Old and New World, are quite well understood; in terms of distributions, they can be summarized as [New [Old [Old + New]]], where the two basal clades have but a single species and the ourgroup is also Old World (Beier et al. 2004). For character evolution, etc., in the southern African Zygophyllaceae, see Bellstedt et al. (2008).

Ecology & Physiology. Members of Zygophyllaceae are notable components of halophytic vegetation in the Irano-Turanian area and in seasonally dry tropical forests, especially in Central America (Pennington et al. 2009; see also articles in Ann. Bot. 115(3). 2015). Larrea tridentata, the creosote bush, is an important shrub of the deserts of S.W. North America; it is very drought tolerant indeed and can be the only shrub in those deserts.

For C4 photosynthesis, known from genera like Zygophyllum, Tetraena (only T. simplex) and Kallstroemia, see Muhaidat et al. (2007) and Lauterbach et al. (2016); Christin et al. (2011b) suggest dates when this pathway may have been acquired.

Pollination and Seed Dispersal. In studies of the pollination of creosote bush, Larrea tridentata, widespread in drier regions in the American southwest, 22 species of medium-sized to small oligolectic bees were found to use Larrea for pollen and nectar, while another 22 species of polylectic bees also regularly visited the plant (Hurd & Linsley 1975).

A number of species, including those of Zygophyllum, have myrmecochorous seeds (Lengyel et al. 2010); wind, other forms of animal dispersal, and myxospermy also occur (Western 2012).

Vegetative Variation. Although the family is quite small, vegetative variation is considerable. Lauterbach et al. (2016) discuss variation in southern African Tetraena and Roepera (Zygophylloideae). Leaflets vary from bifacial to terete and unifacial while the C4 T. simplex has terete leaflets and a single central vascular bundle; there is extensive parallel variation in foliar anatomies in both genera (Lauterbach et al. 2016).

Plant-Animal Interactions. Caterpillars of Lycaeninae are quite commonly found on plants of this family (Fielder 1995). Fourteen species of a clade of the cecidomyiid gall former, Asphondylia, the creosote gall midge, have all diversified on different parts of the plant of the one species of Larrea (Joy & Crespi 2007)).

Genes & Genomes. In at least some species of Larrea chloroplasts are inherited paternally (Yang et al. 2000).

Economic Importance. Guaiacum has very hard, self-lubricating wood that was used in the past to make bearings.

Chemistry, Morphology, etc. For guaiac, perhaps similar to guaiacol/methoxy phenol/C6H4(OH)(OCH3), see Lambert et al. (2013).

Howard (1970) found no stipules in Balanites, but there are structures in the stipular position there, if minute. A number of taxa with opposite leaves have split lateral nodes (e.g. Howard 1970), and this may even been the plesiomorphic condition for the family, however, Viscainoa has simple, spiral leaves with trilacunar nodes.

There is considerable variation in ovule number, type and arrangement in the family. The style of Zygophyllum is more or less gynobasic.

For ovule morphology, see Mauritzon (1934b, d), Masand (1963) and Narayana and Rao (1963), for floral orientation, see Eckert (1966), for chemistry, see Hegnauer (1973, 1990), for foliar anatomy, see Sheahan and Cutler (1993), and for a general account of the family, see Sheahan (2006). Sands (2001) monographed the distinctive Balanites.

Phylogeny. Phylogenetic relationships within the family are fairly well resolved - for clades, see above (Sheahan & Chase 1996, 2000; M. Sun et al. 2016). However, there are few good characters distinguishing the groups. The very distinctive Balanites is to be included in Tribuloideae (Sheahan & Chase 1996, 2000).

For relationships between Larrea and its relatives, see Lia et al. (2001). For relationships and morphology within Zygophylloideae, see Beier et al. (2003); Beier et al. (2004) disentangled relationships within Fagonia, and found the Mexican F. scoparia and the southern European/North African F. cretica to be successively sister to the rest of the genus. For relationships within the southern African Zygophyllaceae, see Bellstedt et al. (2008) and Lauterbach et al. (2016).

Classification. The subfamilial classification above follows that of Sheahan and Chase (2000). Beier et al. (2003) provide a reclassification of Zygophylloideae, but Bellstedt et al. (2008) suggested that reclassification might be premature given our poor understanding of relationships in the clade.

Previous Relationships. Some genera that used to be included in Zygophyllaceae are now in Nitrariaceae (Sapindales, malvids).

Botanical Trivia. Clones of Larrea tridentata, the creosote bush, may live for at least 11,700 years (Vasek 1980).