The genus Elaeocarpus is the largest genus in the family Elaeocarpaceae, comprising more than 350 species of trees and shrubs with a mainly Indo-Pacific distribution. Approximately 28 species in the genus, including nine species from Australia, are known to possess ruminate endosperm. To provide a basis for understanding fruit development and endosperm rumination in the genus and, therefore, its taxonomic and evolutionary significance, we studied the fruit anatomy of Elaeocarpus ruminatus F.Muell. at different developmental phases (petal-fall to maturity). We found lignin in pericarp and ovary wall tissues in the earliest stages of development. In contrast, endosperm rumination occurs only after fruits have fully expanded, and becomes more pronounced as fruits ripen. Its phylogenetic distribution suggests that ruminate endosperm is a derived, albeit homoplasious character in Elaeocarpus. Comparative studies on related species will be instructive in determining the utility of ruminate endosperm for informing infra-generic taxonomy of the genus, and gaining insight into its adaptive significance.
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Vol. 31 • No. 5-6