New Waterlily Family Relationships

Papers published in 2007 have shed new light on relationships within the waterlily family. The first two papers are:

Borsch, T., Hilu, K.W., Wiersema, J.H., Lohne, C., Barthlott, W., Wilde, V.
Phylogeny of Nymphaea (Nymphaeaceae): Evidence from Substitutions and Microstructural Changes in the Chloroplast trnT-trnF Region.
International journal of plant sciences. 2007 June, v. 168, no. 5, p. 639-671. Abstract

Löhne C, Borsch T., & Wiersema J.H. 2007.
Phylogenetic analysis of Nymphaeales using fast-evolving and noncoding
chloroplast markers.
Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 154: 141-163. Abstract

Perhaps the most startling discovery suggests that Ondinea is related to Nymphaea subgenus Anecphya. The image below of apetalous Ondinia purpurea subsp. purpurea may LOOK unlikely to be placed within subgenus Ancephya but Ondinea purpurea subsp. petaloidea, with four petals, could be the "missing link".

Gallery and Field Notes of Ondinia purpurea subsp. purpurea by Dave Wilson

Ondinia purpurea subsp. purpurea
Dave Wilson Photo

Ondinea purpurea subsp.
Ed Schneider Photo

subgenus Anecphya)

Barre Hellquist Photo

These chloroplast DNA studies clearly place the enigmatic N. petersiana within the Lotos group. Its leaves certainly look like a night bloomer, but its blue day-opening flowers have placed it in Nymphaea subgenus Brachyceras until now. The morphology might suggest that it could be the result of an ancient hybridization between these two groups and evidence from nuclear DNA could aid in evaluating this hypothesis.

N. petersiana being collected in Malawi >
Chrissie Chawanje Photo

Gallery of N. petersiana from the Herbarium of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew


Hybridization between these two subgenera, belonging to different major tropical clades of the waterlily genus (the apocarpous [Brachyceras-Anecphya] and the syncarpous [Hydrocallis-Lotos] clades would be an exceedingly improbable phenomenon in comparison to Brachyceras-Anecphya hybridization, which is far more probable given the close relationship between the two subgenera.

See The Miracle Man's Miracle Plant
The world's first documented hybrid between two subgenera of Nymphaea

N. 'William Phillips'

The new studies definitely show N. lotus and N. pubescens as separate species. Some taxonomists have kept them separate "largely for historical reasons" but their independence as species is now confirmed.

Other than the clear relationships between the subgenera of Nymphaea as indicated, and that between Anecphya and Ondinea, there are no other phylogenetic conclusions that can be drawn from these papers, although the relationship between Euryale-Victoria and the Nymphaea subgenera is worthy of further study. So too is the relationship of Nuphar vs. Cabomba-Brasenia to the remaining Nymphaeales.

In another interesting development, Hydatellaceae, a family of small submerged and emergent aquatic plants found in Australia, New Zealand and India, have been moved from the order Poales to Nymphaeales. See these papers:

Jeffery M. Saarela, Hardeep S. Rai, James A. Doyle, Peter K. Endress, Sarah Mathews, Adam D. Marchant,
Barbara G. Briggs & Sean W. Graham
Hydatellaceae identified as a new branch near the base of the angiosperm phylogenetic tree
Nature 446, 312-315 (15 March 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature05612. Abstract

Paula J. Rudall, Dmitry D. Sokoloff, Margarita V. Remizowa, John G. Conran, Jerrold I. Davis,
Terry D. Macfarlane and Dennis W. Stevenson
Morphology of Hydatellaceae, an anomalous aquatic family recently recognized
as an early-divergent angiosperm lineage.

American Journal of Botany. 2007;94:1073-1092. Abstract

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