Gradual vs. abrupt reduction of carpels in syncarpous gynoecia: A case study from polyscias subg. Arthrophyllum (Araliaceae: Apiales)

Polina V. Karpunina, Alexei A. Oskolski, Maxim S. Nuraliev, Porter P. Lowry, Galina V. Degtjareva, Tahir H. Samigullin, Carmen M. Valiejo-Roman, Dmitry D. Sokoloff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Premise of the Study: Revealing the relative roles of gradual and abrupt transformations of morphological characters is an important topic of evolutionary biology. Gynoecia apparently consisting of one carpel have evolved from pluricarpellate syncarpous gynoecia in several angiosperm clades. The process of reduction can involve intermediate stages, with one fertile and one or more sterile carpels (pseudomonomery). The possible origin of monomery directly via an abrupt change of gynoecium merism has been a matter of dispute. We explore the nature of gynoecium reduction in a clade of Araliaceae. METHODS: The anatomy and development of unilocular gynoecia are investigated using light and scanning electron microscopy in two members of Polyscias subg. Arthrophyllum. Gynoecium diversity in the genus is discussed in a phylogenetic framework. KEY RESULTS: Unilocular gynoecia with one fertile ovule have evolved at least four times in Polyscias, including one newly discovered case. The two unilocular taxa investigated are unicarpellate, without any traces of reduced sterile carpels. Carpel orientation is unstable, and the ovary roof and style contain numerous vascular bundles without clearly recognizable dorsals or ventrals. In contrast to pluricarpellate Araliaceae and Apiaceae, the cross zone is apparently oblique in the unicarpellate species. CONCLUSIONS: No support was found for gradual gynoecium reduction via pseudomonomery. The abrupt origin of monomery via direct change of gynoecium merism and the unstable carpel orientation observed are related to the general lability of the flower groundplan in Polyscias. The apparent occurrence of the unusual oblique cross zone in unicarpellate Araliaceae can be explained by developmental constraints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2028-2057
Number of pages30
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Anatomy
  • Developmental constraints
  • Evolution
  • Flower
  • Gynoecium
  • Monomery
  • Phylogeny
  • Pseudomonomery
  • Saltation
  • Vasculature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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