Background and Aims Anaxagorea is the phylogenetically basalmost genus in the large tropical Annonaceae (custard apple family) of Magnoliales, but its floral structure is unknown in many respects. The aim of this study is to analyse evolutionarily interesting floral features in comparison with other genera of the Annonaceae and the sister family Eupomatiaceae.
Methods Live flowers of Anaxagorea crassipetala were examined in the field with vital staining, liquid-fixed material was studied with scanning electron microscopy, and microtome section series were studied with light microscopy. In addition, herbarium material of two other Anaxagorea species was cursorily studied with the dissecting microscope.
Key Results Floral phyllotaxis in Anaxagorea is regularly whorled (with complex whorls) as in all other Annonaceae with a low or medium number of floral organs studied so far (in those with numerous stamens and carpels, phyllotaxis becoming irregular in the androecium and gynoecium). The carpels are completely plicate as in almost all other Annonaceae. In these features Anaxagorea differs sharply from the sister family Eupomatiaceae, which has spiral floral phyllotaxis and ascidiate carpels. Flat stamens and the presence of inner staminodes differ from most other Annonaceae and may be plesiomorphic in Anaxagorea. However, the inner staminodes appear to be non-secretory in most Anaxagorea species, which differs from inner staminodes in other families of Magnoliales (Eupomatiaceae, Degeneriacae, Himantandraceae), which are secretory.
Conclusions Floral phyllotaxis in Anaxagorea shows that there is no signature of a basal spiral pattern in Annonaceae and that complex whorls are an apomorphy not just for a part of the family but for the family in its entirety, and irregular phyllotaxis is derived. This and the presence of completely plicate carpels in Anaxagorea makes the family homogeneous and distinguishes it from the closest relatives in Magnoliales.