Strong selective pressures imposed by drought-prone habitats have contributed to extensive morphological convergence among the 400 species of cheilanthoid ferns (Pteridaceae). As a result, generic circumscriptions based exclusively on macromorphology often prove to be non-monophyletic. Ongoing molecular phylogenetic analyses are providing the foundation for a revised classification of this challenging group and have begun to clarify its complex evolutionary history. As part of this effort, we generated and analyzed DNA sequence data for three plastid loci (rbcL, atpA, and the intergenic spacer trnG-trnR) for the myriopterid clade, one of the largest monophyletic groups of cheilanthoid ferns. This lineage encompasses 47 primarily North and Central American taxa previously included in Cheilanthes but now placed in the recircumscribed genus Myriopteris. Here, we infer a phylogeny for the group and examine key morphological characters across this phylogeny. We also include a brief discussion of the three well-supported Myriopteris subclades, along with a review of reproductive mode and known ploidy levels for members of this early diverging lineage of cheilanthoid ferns.
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Vol. 39 • No. 3