Ericaceae (Epacrids, southern heaths)

Aim: Phylogenomics Stage 2
Project initiation: Aug 2021
Project lead: Darren Crayn | Australian Tropical Herbarium, James Cook University

Images by M. Fagg and K.R.Thiele. Reproduced with permission from Darren Crayn.

Project description:

Ericaceae subfam. Epacridoideae (c. 580 taxa including phrase-named taxa) is predominantly Australian in distribution and an important component of many vegetation communities, particularly southern Australian heaths. Relationships and generic circumscriptions in Epacridoideae have long been problematic. Molecular phylogenetic studies using Sanger sequences from up to five markers undertaken over the past 20 years by members of this the project team have recircumscribed genera phylogenetically, and described new genera (e.g. Puente-Lelièvre et al. 2016, Aust. Syst. Bot. 28: 368-387).

The resolution of generic boundaries is now well settled, however relationships within and between genera remain poorly resolved or supported, particularly in the largest tribe Styphelieae. This tribe contains 336 accepted species and 32 infra-species in 18 genera, plus a further 116 phrase-named species and 5 phrase-named infraspecies, many of which are of conservation concern. A more complete resolution of phylogenetic relationships in Styphelieae enabled by the proposed study will assist with addressing the following research questions:

  • What are the relationships of putative new taxa;
  • What are the continental-scale biogeographical and evolutionary patterns and the processes responsible for these patterns.