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Orchid biology: from Linnaeus via Darwin to the 21st century

Fay, Michael F., Chase, Mark W.
Annals of botany 2009 v.104 no.3 pp. 359-364
Orchidaceae, extinction, flowering, life history, molecular systematics, pollination, population genetics
Orchidaceae are the largest family of flowering plants, with at least 24 000 species, and perhaps better than any other family of flowering plants, orchids represent the extreme specializations that are possible. As a result, they have long fascinated luminaries of the botanical world including Linnaeus and Darwin, but the size of the family has historically been an impediment to their study. Specifically, the lack of detailed information about relationships within the family made it difficult to formulate explicit evolutionary hypotheses for such a large group, but the advent of molecular systematics has revolutionized our understanding of the orchids. Their complex life histories make orchids particularly vulnerable to environmental change, and as result many are now threatened with extinction. In this Special Issue we present a series of 20 papers on orchid biology ranging from phylogenetics, floral evolutionary development, taxonomy, mycorrhizal associations, pollination biology, population genetics and conservation.