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The Morphology and Relationships of Dalechampia Scandens (Euphorbiaceae)

Grady L. Webster and Barbara D. Webster
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 59, No. 6 (Jul., 1972), pp. 573-586
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2441021
Page Count: 14
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The Morphology and Relationships of Dalechampia Scandens (Euphorbiaceae)
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Abstract

The circumtropical but preponderantly American genus Dalechampia, comprising nearly 100 species of twining vines (or rarely subshrubs), is strikingly isolated within the Euphorbiaceae because of its distinctive bibracteate inflorescences. There has been considerable taxonomic controversy with regard to the relationships of the genus, and it has been suggested that Dalechampia is allied to the tribe Euphorbieae because of a supposed analogy between its inflorescence and the cyathium in the Euphorbieae. Field and laboratory investigations of the common American species D. scandens, together with a comparative survey of related species, have thrown some light on these problems. The Dalechampia inflorescence seems best interpreted as consisting of a terminal staminate pleiochasium (with part of the lateral branches transformed for nectar production), juxtaposed to a 3-flowered pistillate cyme. The lips of the conspicuous bilabiate involucre are formed by the hypertrophied bracts which subtend the staminate and pistillate cymes. The bisexual inflorescences appear to be distinctly proterogynous, rather than proterandrous, as has been previously suggested. The configuration of the inflorescence-a bilaterally symmetrical pseudanthium-suggests adaptation for cross-pollination, but the closing movement of the bracts makes self-pollination probable in the absence of visits by pollinators. The similarity of the Dalechampia inflorescence to the cyathium of the Euphorbieae appears to be entirely superficial, and both reproductive and vegetative data suggest that Dalechampia is related to taxa of tribe Plukenetieae.

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