Floral development ofBerberidopsis beckleri- can an additional species of the Berberidopsidaceae add evidence to floral evolution in the core eudicots?

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Background and AimsBerberidopsis beckleri is one of three species of the family Berberidopsidaceae. The flower of Berberidopsis is unusual for core eudicots in being spiral with an undifferentiated perianth. In a previous study of the sister species B. corallina, it was suggested that Berberidopsidaceae represent a prototype for the origin of the bipartite perianth and pentamery in core eudicots.MethodsThe floral development of B. beckleri was investigated with a scanning electron microscope and compared with previous studies on B. corallina and Aextoxicon punctatum of Berberidopsidales.Key ResultsFlowers are inserted at the end of short shoots, which are not distinguishable from a pedicel. The initiation of perianth parts is highly predictable and spiral with a divergence angle of 137·5°, in a progression of a variable number of bracts to weakly differentiated sepaloid and petaloid tepals. The androecium most often consists 11 stamens arising in a rapid sequence. Compared with B. corallina, the number of perianth parts and stamens is more variable and there is no evidence of an alternation of shorter and longer plastochrons leading to a whorled arrangement. However, the gynoecium is generally pentamerous and arises from five primordia. The carpels are laterally connected into massive intercarpellary ridges on which ovules are initiated.ConclusionsThe position of Streptothamnus within Berberidopsidaceae is questioned. It is demonstrated that the floral development of Berberidopsis beckleri lies within a gradient from spiral flowers without perianth differentiation leading to flowers with differentiated sepals and petals. The arrangement of flowers in compact inflorescences in B. corallina and Aextoxicon leads to a more stabilized arrangement of organs in whorls. The inherent variability of the flower of Berberidopsis is well correlated with the limited canalization of flowers in taxa at the base of the core eudicots and could act as a prototype for the current eudicot floral Bauplan.

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