Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Towards resolving Lamiales relationships: insights from rapidly evolving chloroplast sequences

Bastian Schäferhoff1*, Andreas Fleischmann2, Eberhard Fischer3, Dirk C Albach4, Thomas Borsch5, Günther Heubl2 and Kai F Müller1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Muenster, Hüfferstraße 1, 48149 Münster, Germany

2 Department Biology, Systematic Botany and Mycology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Menzinger Straße 67, D-80638 Munich, Germany

3 Institut für Integrierte Naturwissenschaften - Biologie, Universität Koblenz-Landau, Universitätsstraße 1, 56070 Koblenz, Germany

4 Institut für Biologie und Umweltwissenschaften (IBU), Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Carl von Ossietzky-Str. 9-11, 26111 Oldenburg, Germany

5 Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem and Institute for Biology, Dahlem Center of Plant Sciences (DCPS), Freie Universität Berlin, Königin Luise-Straße 6-8, 14195 Berlin, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:352  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-352

Published: 12 November 2010



In the large angiosperm order Lamiales, a diverse array of highly specialized life strategies such as carnivory, parasitism, epiphytism, and desiccation tolerance occur, and some lineages possess drastically accelerated DNA substitutional rates or miniaturized genomes. However, understanding the evolution of these phenomena in the order, and clarifying borders of and relationships among lamialean families, has been hindered by largely unresolved trees in the past.


Our analysis of the rapidly evolving trnK/matK, trnL-F and rps16 chloroplast regions enabled us to infer more precise phylogenetic hypotheses for the Lamiales. Relationships among the nine first-branching families in the Lamiales tree are now resolved with very strong support. Subsequent to Plocospermataceae, a clade consisting of Carlemanniaceae plus Oleaceae branches, followed by Tetrachondraceae and a newly inferred clade composed of Gesneriaceae plus Calceolariaceae, which is also supported by morphological characters. Plantaginaceae (incl. Gratioleae) and Scrophulariaceae are well separated in the backbone grade; Lamiaceae and Verbenaceae appear in distant clades, while the recently described Linderniaceae are confirmed to be monophyletic and in an isolated position.


Confidence about deep nodes of the Lamiales tree is an important step towards understanding the evolutionary diversification of a major clade of flowering plants. The degree of resolution obtained here now provides a first opportunity to discuss the evolution of morphological and biochemical traits in Lamiales. The multiple independent evolution of the carnivorous syndrome, once in Lentibulariaceae and a second time in Byblidaceae, is strongly supported by all analyses and topological tests. The evolution of selected morphological characters such as flower symmetry is discussed. The addition of further sequence data from introns and spacers holds promise to eventually obtain a fully resolved plastid tree of Lamiales.