Convergent evolution driven by adaptation to arid habitats has made it difficult to identify monophyletic taxa in the cheilanthoid ferns. Dependence on distinctive, but potentially homoplastic characters, to define major clades has resulted in a taxonomic conundrum: all of the largest cheilanthoid genera have been shown to be polyphyletic. Here we reconstruct the first comprehensive phylogeny of the strictly New World cheilanthoid genus Argyrochosma. We use our reconstruction to examine the evolution of farina (powdery leaf deposits), which has played a prominent role in the circumscription of cheilanthoid genera. Our data indicate that Argyrochosma comprises two major monophyletic groups: one exclusively non-farinose and the other primarily farinose. Within the latter group, there has been at least one evolutionary reversal (loss) of farina and the development of major chemical variants that characterize specific clades. Our phylogenetic hypothesis, in combination with spore data and chromosome counts, also provides a critical context for addressing the prevalence of polyploidy and apomixis within the genus. Evidence from these datasets provides testable hypotheses regarding reticulate evolution and suggests the presence of several previously undetected taxa of Argyrochosma.
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