Journal: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Volyme: 78
Pages: 375-285


Guihaiothamnus (Rubiaceae) is an enigmatic, monotypic genus endemic to southwestern China. Its generic status has never been doubted because it is morphologically unique by having rosette habit, showy, long-corolla-tubed flowers, and multi-seeded indehiscent berry-like fruits. The genus has been postulated to be a relict in the broad-leaved forests of China, and to be related to the genus Wendlandia, which was placed in the subfamily Cinchonoideae and recently classified in the tribe Augusteae of the subfamily Dialypetalanthoideae. Using combined evidence from palynology, cytology, and DNA sequences of nuclear ITS and four plastid markers (rps16, trnT-F, ndhF, rbcL), we assessed the phylogenetic position of Guihaiothamnus in Rubiaceae. Our molecular phylogenetic analyses placed the genus deeply nested within Wendlandia. This relationship is corroborated by evidence from palynology and cytology. Using a relaxed molecular clock method based on five fossil records, we dated the stem age of Wendlandia to be 17.46 my and, the split between G. acaulis and related Wendlandia species in southwestern China to be 2.11mya. This young age, coupled with the derived position in Wendlandia, suggests an evolutionary derivation rather than an evolutionary relict of G. acaulis. Its rosette habit and large showy flowers, which are very distinctive from other Wendlandias, are interpreted as a result of recent rapid adaptation to rock and cliff habitats.