Phylogenetic analyses of "higher" Hamamelididae based on plastid sequence data.
Phylogenetic relationships were examined within the "higher" Hamamelididae using 21 species representing eight families and related outgroups. Chloroplast DNA sequences encoding the matK gene (/1 kilobase) provided 258 informative nucleotide sites. Phylogenetic analysis of this variation produced one most parsimonious tree supporting three monophyletic groups. In this tree, Nothofagus was basal to a well supported clade of remaining "higher" hamamelids, in which Fagaceae, including Fagus, were sister to a clade of core "higher" hamamelids that share wind-pollination, bicarpellate flowers, granular pollen walls, and reduced pollen apertures. Within the core "higher" hamamelids three subclades were resolved, Myricaceae, (Casuarina-(Ticodendron-(Betulaceae))), and (Rhoiptelea-Juglandaceae). Each subclade was well supported but relationships among them were not. The basal position of Nothofagus within the matK tree is consistent with the fossil record of "higher" hamamelids in which Nothofagus pollen appears earlier than microfossils with affinities to other modern "higher" hamamelids. This placement supports the exclusion of Nothofagus from Fagaceae and suggests two hypotheses for the origin of the cupule. The cupule may be ancestral within "higher" hamamelids and subsequently lost in core members of the clade or there may have been two independent origins. It is suggested that the three clades (1) Nothofagaceae, (2) Fagaceae, and (3) Juglandaceae, Rhoiptelea, Myricaceae, Casuarina, Ticodendron, and Betulaceae be considered at the ordinal level and that traditional orders, such as Fagales sensu Cronquist (Fagaceae, Nothofagaceae, and Betulaceae) be abandoned. Comparative analyses of matK sequences with previously published rbcL sequences demonstrate that for the taxa considered here matK sequences produced trees with greater phylogenetic resolution and a higher consistency index.
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