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Phylogenetic analysis of amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) was used to infer patterns of morphologic and chromosomal evolution in an eastern North American group of sedges (ENA clade I of Carex sect. Ovales). Distance analyses of AFLP data recover a tree that is topologically congruent with previous phylogenetic estimates based on nuclear ribosomal DNA (nrDNA) sequences and provide support for four species groups within ENA clade I. A maximum likelihood method designed for analysis of restriction site data is used to evaluate the strength of support for alternative topologies. While there is little support for the precise placement of the root, the likelihood of topologies in which any of the four clades identified within the ENA clade I is forced to be paraphyletic is much lower than the likelihood of the optimal tree. Chromosome counts for a sampling of species from throughout sect. Ovales are mapped onto the tree, as well as counts for all species in ENA clade I. Parsimony reconstruction of ancestral character states suggest that: (1) Heilborn’s hypothesis that more highly derived species in Carex have higher chromosome counts does not apply within sect. Ovales, (2) the migration to eastern North America involved a decrease in average chromosome count within sect. Ovales, and (3) intermediate chromosome counts are ancestral within ENA clade I. A more precise understanding of chromosomal evolution in Carex should be possible using likelihood analyses that take into account the intraspecific polymorphism and wide range of chromosome counts that characterize the genus.