Phylogeny of Schinus L. (Anacardiaceae) with a new infrageneric classification and insights into evolution of spinescence and floral traits.
Schinus, best known by its few cultivated and invasive species, is the largest genus of Anacardiaceae in southern South America. It is remarkably diverse compared to closely related genera, with approximately 42 species, most of which occur in several arid vegetation types and extend into Andean and Atlantic moist forests. The most comprehensive taxonomic revision of the genus dates to 1957, recognizing S. subg. Schinus and S. subg. Duvaua, the latter of which were further divided into two sections. Subsequent studies have highlighted morphological inconsistencies in this infrageneric classification, and species delimitation remains a challenge. Schinus has been poorly sampled in previous phylogenetic studies of Anacardiaceae, and thus any assumptions about its monophyly and relationships remain untested. We investigated the phylogenetic relationships of 44 Schinus taxa and sampled 122 specimens, including the outgroup, using nine nuclear and two plastid DNA sequence regions, most of them developed recently for Commiphora (Burseraceae, sister to Anacardiaceae). We used maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian inference to infer relationships among species. We also constructed a morphological dataset, including vegetative anatomical features, and compared these characters to hypotheses based on molecular evidence in order to achieve a better understanding of the relationships among the species of Schinus and to related genera, aiming also to identify morphological characters and putative synapomorphies for major clades, and to discuss hypotheses regarding the evolution of structural traits in the genus. Our analyses strongly support the monophyly of Schinus, but also indicate that S. subg. Schinus and the sections of S. subg. Duvaua are polyphyletic. The phylogenetic relationships that emerged from our analyses include eight relatively well-supported lineages, but relationships among closely related species remain unclear in some clades. Ancestral state reconstructions demonstrate that several morphological and leaf-anatomical characters are valuable in characterizing some lineages. By contrast, most of the traits that have traditionally been used to circumscribe groups in Schinus show high levels of homoplasy. In light of these results, we present a novel sectional classification of Schinus based on a combination of character states associated with geographic distribution, corresponding to lineages that are mostly allopatric or at least ecologically distinct.