J Syst Evol ›› 2010, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (4): 225-239.DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-6831.2010.00087.x

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Disentangling confusions in inflorescence morphology: Patterns and diversity of reproductive shoot ramification in angiosperms

Peter K. ENDRESS*   

  1. (Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland)
  • Received:2010-03-31 Published:2010-07-12

Abstract: Terminology of inflorescence diversity has often been used in a confusing way in the literature, partly because it was based on uncritical and outdated definitions. Especially the terms cyme, thyrse, and panicle have been misused. Although a more critical classification worked out by several authors is available, it is unfortunately not in general use because most of the relevant publications are written in German. In addition, some terms have not been used in the same way by morphologists and developmental geneticists. The present review attempts to remedy the situation with a simple outline of a classification based on (1) different branching patterns, (2) differential elongation of axes of different orders, and (3) repetition of basic ramification patterns in different ways. Racemose and cymose branching are two extreme patterns, the former with limitation of axial orders to two, the second with limitation of lateral axes of each order to two. In a branching system a sequence of racemose → cymose, and, within the cyme, of dichasial → monochasial, is common, but the reverse sequence is not known to occur. Systematic and evolutionary aspects of inflorescences are briefly discussed. Branching patterns are often stable in larger clades. Inflorescences of mutants studied in developmental genetic studies are mainly altered in flower or branch numbers or relative branch length but not in branching patterns. This is also a contribution toward the goal of a unified terminology for the different fields of biology dealing with inflorescences.

Key words: inflorescence, reproductive shoot, branching patterns, cymose, racemose, panicle, thyrse.