Toward a monophyletic Notholaena (Pteridaceae): Resolving patterns of evolutionary convergence in xeric-adapted ferns

Carl J. Rothfels, Michael D. Windham, Amanda L. Grusz, Gerald J. Gastony, Kathleen M. Pryer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Cheilanthoid ferns (Pteridaceae) are a diverse and ecologically important clade, unusual among ferns for their ability to colonize and diversify within xeric habitats. These extreme habitats are thought to drive the extensive evolutionary convergence, and thus morphological homoplasy, that has long thwarted a natural classification of cheilanthoid ferns. Here we present the first multigene phylogeny to focus on taxa traditionally assigned to the large genus Notholaena. New World taxa (Notholaena sensu Tryon) are only distantly related to species occurring in the Old World (Notholaena sensu Pichi Sermolli). The circumscription of Notholaena adopted in recent American floras is shown to be paraphyletic, with species usually assigned to Cheilanthes and Cheiloplecton nested within it. The position of Cheiloplecton is particularly surprising - given its well-developed false indusium and non-farinose blade, it is morphologically anomalous within the "notholaenoids". In addition to clarifying natural relationships, the phylogenetic hypothesis presented here helps to resolve outstanding nomenclatural issues and provides a basis for examining character evolution within this diverse, desert-adapted clade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)712-724
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Atpa
  • Cheilanthoids
  • Cheiloplecton
  • Ferns
  • Molecular phylogenetics
  • Morphological homoplasy
  • Paragymnopteris marantae
  • RbcL
  • TrnG-trnR


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