Original Research

Species groups in the genus Ehrharta (Poaceae) in southern Africa

G. E. Gibbs Russell, R. P. Ellis
Bothalia | Vol 17, No 1 | a1015 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v17i1.1015 | © 1987 G. E. Gibbs Russell, R. P. Ellis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 October 1987 | Published: 23 October 1987

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G. E. Gibbs Russell, Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agriculture and Water Supply, South Africa
R. P. Ellis, Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agriculture and Water Supply, South Africa

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Abstract

Ehrharta Thunb. is a genus of Gondwanaland distribution with its centre of diversity in the winter rainfall Fynbos Biome of southern Africa. In recent subfamily treatments Ehrharta has proved difficult to place satisfactorily, and during the past five years it has been moved between Bambusoideae and Arundinoideae. However, most previous systematic studies using cryptic characters have covered only four taxa out of about 35. The present study includes all African taxa, and demarcates seven species groups on the basis of both spikelet morphology and leaf blade anatomy. Parallelism and/or convergence in vegetative macromorphology within and between the species groups is widespread, and is similar, in some cases, to adaptations found in other plant families in the Fynbos Biome. However, these macromorphological trends are not reflected in the leaf anatomy. Leaf anatomy is generally consistent with the spikelet morphology. Some anatomical differences between the species groups in Ehrharta appear to be as great as differences between taxa of much higher ranks elsewhere in the Poaceae. This wide range of variability may be related to an early divergence of Ehrharteae from other grasses, as suggested by the Gondwanaland distribution, and may explain the difficulty of placing this fascinating yet baffling genus in a subfamily.


Keywords

anatomy; <i>Ehrharta</i>; morphology; Poaceae; southern Africa, taxonomy

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