In the 1990s Rubiaceae became a hot spot for systematists, mainly due to the comprehensive treatment of the family by Robbrecht in 1988. Next to the exploration of macromolecular characters to infer the phylogeny, the palynology of Rubiaceae finally received the attention it deserves. This article aims to present a state-of-the-art analysis of the systematic palynology of the family. The range of variation in pollen morphology is wide, and some of the pollen features are not known from other angiosperm taxa; e.g., a looplike or spiral pattern for the position of apertures in pantoaperturate grains. We compiled an online database at the generic level for the major pollen characters and orbicule presence in Rubiaceae. An overview of the variation is presented here and illustrated per character: dispersal unit, pollen size and shape, aperture number, position and type, sexine ornamentation, nexine pattern, and stratification of the sporoderm. The presence/absence and morphological variation of orbicules at the generic level is provided as well. The systematic usefulness of pollen morphology in Rubiaceae is discussed at the (sub)family, tribal, generic, and infraspecific levels, using up-to-date evolutionary hypotheses for the different lineages in the family. The problems and opportunities of coding pollen characters for cladistic analyses are also treated.
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