Why Recognize Miconia as the Only Genus in Tribe Miconieae (Melastomataceae)?

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Systematics, Evolution, and Ecology of Melastomataceae


The tribe Miconieae is a strictly New World group of ca. 1900 species of mostly shrubs and small trees, but also including herbs, epiphytes, and climbers. The taxonomic history of the group is very complex with anything from 28 to 17 genera recognized in the tribe. Generic delimitations have often relied on a few morphological characters that are poorly defined, unevenly applied, and highly homoplasious. Thus, not surprisingly, most genera have been resolved as nonmonophyletic and rendered the highly species-rich Miconia as wildly paraphyletic. Attempts to find consistently stable clades across the tribe, that are also reciprocally monophyletic and diagnosable for the entire tribe have failed, leading most specialists to recognize a single genus within the tribe: Miconia. In this chapter, we summarize the taxonomic history of the tribe and the current status of phylogenetic and taxonomic studies in it. We then present the reasoning to recognize Miconia as the sole genus in Miconieae. Under our circumscription, Miconia becomes the seventh largest genus of flowering plants and notably the only one among the 10 largest genera of angiosperms that is restricted to the Neotropics.


Biological and Environmental Sciences

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