Australian Systematic Botany Australian Systematic Botany Society
Taxonomy, biogeography and evolution of plants

The American Proteaceae

Ghillean T. Prance and Vanessa Plana

Australian Systematic Botany 11(4) 287 - 299
Published: 1998


The American Proteaceae are outliers from the main centres of diversity of the family in Australia and South Africa. There are about 83 species in eight genera which all belong to the monophyletic subfamily Grevilleoideae. Three genera, Embothrium, Oreocallis and Lomatia, are placed in the tribe Embothrieae (sensu Johnson and Briggs), four Euplassa, Gevuina, Panopsis and Roupala in the Macadamieae and the single genus Orites in the Oriteae. There are five genera endemic to America and three also have species in Australia and New Guinea (Gevuina, Lomatia and Orites). The Proteaceae appear to have arrived in South America via two routes. The larger genera Euplassa, Panopsis and Roupala, which are all endemic to America and have a general distribution in northern South America and south-eastern Brazil, are derived from Gondwanaland before it separated from South America. The remaining genera are distributed either in temperate South America or in the high Andes and appear to have arrived more recently via the Australia–Antarctica–South American connection. Three of these genera have species in both regions. The centres of species diversity of Euplassa, Panopsis and Roupala fall outside hypothesised forest refugia, indicating that they are not true rainforest species but species of seasonal habitats like those achieved at higher altitudes where they are commonly found.

Two genera,Panopsis and Roupala, have reached Central America after the central American land bridge was formed six million years ago. The exact relationship to genera on other continents is still unclear and there is a need for a cladistic biogeographic analysis of the group based on both morphological and molecular data.

© CSIRO 1998

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