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Schefflera (Araliaceae): taxonomic history, overview and progress

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From the last quarter of the 19th century, Schefflera has been viewed as the largest and most widely-ranging genus in Araliaceae, with a strong, easily recognised morphological facies. Recent studies have, however, shown the genus to be broadly polyphyletic within Araliaceae, revealing at least five primary lineages associated with morphologically and geographically disparate parts of the family, necessitating the eventual transfer of nearly all species into other genera, potentially corresponding to the currently recognized clades from Melanesia, SE Asia, Africa and Madagascar, and the Neotropics. This paper provides an overview of Schefflera s. lat., including a summary of its taxonomic history, a revision and update of the infrageneric scheme presented in Plunkett et al. (2005, in Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 92: 202–224) that incorporates additional details, diagnostic characters, and an assessment of present levels of knowledge within the larger groups, and a summary of current areas of enquiry. The updated infrageneric scheme offers an explicit set of working hypotheses that can be tested in order to establish generic limits that are consistent with phylogenetic relationships, while also providing a framework for focused taxonomic work that encompasses the c. 600 currently recognised species placed in Schefflera s. lat. as well as several hundred novelties that await description.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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  • Plant Diversity and Evolution (PDE) publishes original contributions to plant sciences from the fields of phytotaxonomy, systematics, morphology, anatomy and geobotany, ecology, synecology and their relationships to biogeography, plant distribution and dispersal. Emphasis is on vascular plants. The editors also encourage the submission of papers on ontogeny and its genetic aspects.

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