A densely sampled ITS phylogeny of the Cape flagship genus Erica L. suggests numerous shifts in floral macro-morphology
Erica L. is the largest of the 'Cape' clades that together comprise around half of the disproportionately high species richness of the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa. Around 840 species of Erica are currently recognised, C.680 of which are found in the CFR, the rest distributed across the rest of Southern Africa, the highlands of Tropical Africa and Madagascar, and Europe. Erica is taxonomically well documented, but very little is known about species-level relationships. We present the first densely sampled phylogenetic analysis of Erica, using nuclear ribosomal DNA sequences (internal transcribed spacers; ITS) of c. 45% of the species from across the full geographic range of the genus, both Calluna and Daboecia (Ericeae; monotypic genera and putative sister groups of Erica), and further Ericoideae outgroups. Our results show both morphological and geographic coherence of some clades, but numerous shifts in floral macro-morphology as represented by variation in individual morphological characters and pollination syndromes. European Ericeae is a paraphyletic grade subtending a monophyletic African/Malagasy Erica. Given the limited resolution of this single gene tree, more data are needed for further conclusions. Clades are identified that will serve as an effective guide for targeted sampling from multiple linkage groups. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.