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The three related genera Encelia, Enceliopsis, and Geraea comprise the alliance. The first consists primarily of shrubs and the latter two of herbaceous perennials and an annual. With the exception of two Encelia species of arid South America, all inhabit southwestern North America. Enceliopsis and Geraea are sister groups, and together form the sister group to Encelia, which includes two major clades. Especially in Encelia, there are diverse morphologies and a variety of ecological strategies marked by differences in habitat, vestiture, water balance, and photosynthetic parameters. The North American species of all three genera are obligate outcrossers, all with n = 18 chromosomes. Although intergeneric hybrids are largely sterile, interspecific hybrids in Encelia are fertile in the wild and in cultivation. Hybrids in the wild are largely restricted to F1s, except in areas of human disturbance. Two true-breeding species are of homoploid hybrid origin, and are evidently isolated from the parent species through external ecological barriers involving selection against backcross progeny. Studies of the chloroplast genome and the intercistronic transcribed spacer (ITS) of nrDNA show clear differentiation of the genera, but much less variation within Encelia, even between phenotypically disparate species, suggesting recent divergence. Because the species are interfertile, it will be possible to study the genetics of the traits that distinguish the species and contribute to their differences.

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© 1998 Curtis Clark

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