J Syst Evol ›› 2023, Vol. 61 ›› Issue (6): 1036-1046.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12935

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Time to update the sectional classification of Ilex (Aquifoliaceae): New insights from Ilex phylogeny, morphology, and distribution

Yi Yang1,2, Lei Jiang2, En-De Liu2, Wei-Li Liu1, Li Chen2, Yi-Xuan Kou1, Deng-Mei Fan1, Shan-Mei Cheng1, Zhi-Yong Zhang1*, and Hua Peng2*   

  1. 1 Laboratory of Subtropical Biodiversity, Jiangxi Agricultural University, Nanchang 330045, Jiangxi, China;
    2 CAS Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650204, China
    *Authors for correspondence. Hua Peng. E-mail: hpeng@mail.kib.ac.cn; Zhi-Yong Zhang. E-mail: zhangzy@jxau.edu.cn/pinus-rubus@163.com
  • Received:2022-07-01 Accepted:2022-11-25 Online:2022-12-02 Published:2023-11-01

Abstract: Resolving the infrageneric classification of species-rich genera has been challenging in plant taxonomy. Ilex L. is a subcosmopolitan genus with over 600 species of dioecious trees and shrubs. Many classification systems based on morphological data have been proposed during the past 250 years. However, these systems (such as Loesener's and Galle's systems) may not truly reflect Ilex's evolutionary trajectories because most of those system's infrageneric hierarchies are not monophyletic. In this study, we reconstructed a phylogeny of Ilex L. comprising 15 moderately to highly supported clades using rigorously identified samples (202 species) and closely authenticated gene sequences of three nuclear genes [internal transcribed spacer (ITS), external transcribed spacer (ETS), and nepGS]. The newly generated phylogenetic tree resembles essentially that of the nuclear tree of Manen et al., but shows conspicuous topological differences with the phylogeny of Yao et al. Closely scrutinizing morphological variation and distributional patterns of 202 species, this study found that most lineages of Ilex identified herein are well defined by a particular trait or a combination of morphological and distributional traits, displaying phylogeny–morphology–distribution conformity that has seldom been uncovered in previous studies. Given the general phylogeny–morphology–distribution conformity revealed in this genus, we put forward an updated sectional classification system for Ilex that temporarily contains 14 sections. The new classification will provide a robust framework for studying the evolution and diversification of this ecologically and economically important genus.

Key words: classification system, distribution, Ilex L., morphology, nuclear gene, phylogeny