Background – Whereas subfamily Oziroeoideae of the petaloid monocot family Hyacinthaceae is restricted to South America, the three other subfamilies, Ornithogaloideae, Urgineoideae and Hyacinthoideae, have much larger primary distribution areas spanning the Mediterranean
and Central Europe, Arabian Peninsula, Indian subcontinent, Far East (China and Japan) and Africa, with some members also in Madagascar. Based mainly on morphology, until recently, most of the Malagasy species have been included in genera found also outside this island. Morphological characters
alone have been misleading in many cases, resulting in erroneous generic classifications. Method – Analysis of plastid DNA sequences was used to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships among members of old world Hyacinthaceae. Key results – Phylogenetic analysis
based on multiple plastid DNA markers has changed our views substantially, leaving many of the Malagasy Hyacinthaceae taxa as monophyletic groups. All Malagasy members of Urgineoideae form a well-supported clade (Rhodocodon/Drimia cryptopoda) pointing to a single colonization
from continental Africa. Drimia cryptopoda is a morphologically deviant species previously misplaced in Hyacinthus. The Urgineoideae from India do not appear to be directly related to African or Malagasy species, but show close relationships to the Mediterranean Urginea
s. str. Two members of Hyacinthoideae are present in Madagascar. One of them, Ledebouria sp. ined., is related to South African species, whereas the other, L. nossibeensis, shows strong relationships to L. hyacinthina from India and to L. grandifolia from Socotra.
Dipcadi (Ornithogaloideae) forms a well-supported monophyletic clade. Conclusion – We presume a single colonization from mainland Africa followed by rapid radiation in different habitats in Madagascar. The close relationship of Indian Dipcadi with those of the
Mediterranean points to a Northern Hemisphere migration route linking India and the Mediterranean and possibly involving also the Arabian Peninsula.
Plant Ecology and Evolution (a continuation of Belgian Journal of Botany, incorporating Systematics and Geography of Plants) is an international journal devoted to ecology, phylogenetics and systematics of all 'plant' groups in the traditional sense (including algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, myxomycetes), also covering related fields such as comparative and developmental morphology, conservation biology, ecophysiology, evolution, phytogeography, pollen and spores, population biology, and vegetation studies. It is published by the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium and the Botanic Garden Meise and contains original research papers, review articles, checklists, short communications and book reviews.