Wahlenbergia is a largely southern hemisphere genus of at least 260 species; within Campanulaceae only Campanula is larger. This first phylogeny of Wahlenbergia was reconstructed using about 20% of the 260 species in the genus based on the nuclear ribosomal ITS marker and the chloroplast trnL-F marker with samples from South Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Wahlenbergia was confirmed to be non-monophyletic, though most of the species form a clade. Our tree topology and date estimates indicate that Wahlenbergia diverged in South Africa about 29.6. mya, then dispersed to Australasia about 4.8. mya, thus indicating the radiation of Wahlenbergia occurred relatively recently. Radiations occurred in both of these main centres; there are currently about 170 species in South Africa and 45 species and subspecies in Australasia. New Zealand species comprise two clades, both rooted within the Australasian clade. We thus propose two dispersals from Australia to New Zealand, one leading to a radiation of species with the rhizomatous herbaceous growth form ca. 1.6. mya, and the other leading to a radiation of species with the radicate growth form 0.7. mya. Dispersals from Australia to New Zealand match the expected direction, following the west wind drift and ocean currents. The herbaceous growth form was shown to be ancestral for the genus as a whole, and polyploidy has been a mechanism of the evolution of the genus in Australasia. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
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