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Plastid phylogenomics of the Sansevieria Clade of Dracaena (Asparagaceae) resolves a recent radiation

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Best known as low maintenance houseplants, sansevierias are a diverse group of flowering plants native to Africa, Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Indian subcontinent. Traditionally recognised as a distinct genus, Sansevieria was recently merged with the larger genus Dracaena based on molecular phylogenetic data. Within the Sansevieria Clade of Dracaena, taxonomic uncertainties remain despite attempts to unravel the relationships between the species. To investigate the evolutionary relationships, morphological evolution and biogeographical history in the group, we aim to reconstruct a robust dated phylogenetic hypothesis. Using genome skimming, a chloroplast genome (cpDNA) dataset and a nuclear ribosomal (nrDNA) dataset were generated. The sampling included representatives of all sections and informal groups previously described in Sansevieria based on morphology. Analysis of the cpDNA dataset using a maximum likelihood approach resulted in a well-supported phylogeny. The time-calibrated phylogeny indicated a recent radiation with five main clades emerging in the Pliocene. Two strongly supported clades align with previously defined groups, i.e., Sansevieria section Dracomima, characterised by the Dracomima-type inflorescence, and the Zeylanica informal group, native to the Indian subcontinent. Other previously defined groups were shown to be polyphyletic; a result of convergent evolution of the identifying characters. Switches between flat and cylindrical leaves occurred multiple times in the evolution of the Sansevieria Clade. Similarly, the Cephalantha-type inflorescence has originated multiple times from an ancestor with a Sansevieria-type inflorescence. Analysis of the nrDNA dataset resulted in a phylogenetic hypothesis with low resolution, yet it supported the same two groups confirmed by the cpDNA dataset. This study furthers our understanding of the evolution of the Sansevieria Clade, which will benefit taxonomic and applied research, and aid conservation efforts.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Article number107404
JournalMolecular phylogenetics and evolution
Volume169
ISSN1055-7903
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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