The systematic significance of the fruit and seed morphology and anatomy in selected Oxalis L. (Oxalidaceae) species

Obone, Charline (2005-12)

Thesis (MSc (Botany and Zoology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


At present a proper systematic classification of the southern African members of Oxalis L. (Oxalidaceae) does not exist. The most recent and comprehensive revision of the genus based on macro-morphological characters is out-dated (published 60 years ago (Salter, 1944)). The external morphology of the flowers of the southern African Oxalis species is reasonably wellstudied, but little is known about the anatomy thereof. A pilot study of fruit and seed morphology and anatomy of nine selected southern African Oxalis species (Obone, 2003) already revealed some trends to demarcate two main groups. This confirmed the systematic value of some of the characters already proposed by Salter (1944). The aim of the present study was to assess the potential systematic value of fruit and seed morphology and anatomy of 32 Oxalis species. The selection was done such that the included species would represent the main sections proposed by Salter (1944), the pollen types proposed by Dreyer (1996) and the different clades revealed by the phylogenetic tree compiled by Oberlander et al. (2004). Although the species sampling was very low (20% of the southern African taxa), 35 potentially informative characters were identified in fruit and seed morphology and anatomy. These characters may be grouped into three character types, namely autapomorphic characters, randomly distributed characters and systematically informative characters. The first two character types were particularly useful in species-specific characterization. The third group of linked characters could be used to demarcate two major groups of species, those producing endospermous seeds and those producing exendospermous seeds. The three types of characters may prove to be taxonomically informative if more species-inclusive studies are performed. The cluster analysis strongly supported the demarcation of endospermous and exendospermous groups with 100% bootstrap support. Low bootstrap values were observed for subgroups within each of the major groups. This is probably due to low taxon sampling. Therefore clustering based on fruit and seed morphology should be considered with extreme caution within the two groups. Despite these limitations of sample size, fruit and seed morphological and anatomical characters have proven to be systematically informative at the infra-generic level.

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