Authors: Möller, Michael; Cronk, Quentin C. B.
Publication: American Journal of Botany
Year: 1997
Genera: Saintpaulia, Streptocarpus

Phylogenetic relationships of eight species of Saintpaulia H. Wendl., 19 species of Streptocarpus Lindl. (representing all major growth forms within the genus), and two outgroups (Haberlea rhodopensis Friv., Chirita spadiciformis W. T. Wang) were examined using comparative nucleotide sequences from the two internal transcribed spacers (ITS) of nuclear ribosomal DNA. The length of the ITS 1 region ranged from 228 to 249 base pairs (bp) and the ITS 2 region from 196 to 245 bp. Pairwise sequence divergence across both spacers for ingroup and outgroup species ranged from 0 to 29%. Streptocarpus is not monophyletic, and Saintpaulia is nested within Streptocarpus subgenus Streptocarpella. Streptocarpus subgenus Streptocarpus is monophyletic. The ITS sequence data demonstrate that the unifoliate Streptocarpus species form a clade, and are also characterized by a unique 47-bp deletion in ITS 2. The results strongly support the monophyly of (1) Saintpaulia, and (2) Saintpaulia plus the African members of the subgenus Streptocarpella of Streptocarpus. The data suggest the evolution of Saintpaulia from Streptocarpus subgenus Streptocarpella. The differences in flower and vegetative characters are probably due to ecological adaptation leading to a relatively rapid radiation of Saintpaulia.