This volume presents systematic treatments for the families and genera of the Malpighiales, which more recently have been recognised as a new major group of the eudicots. Apart from several herbaceous lineages (already treated in Vol. IX of this series), the order consists mainly of rainforest trees, particularly those of the understorey. Accompanied by other early eudicot lineages, this reflects the well-documented origin of the group as invaders into the conifer-, cycad- and seed fern-dominated forests of the Cretaceous which, at that time, were transformed into the tropical rainforest biome. In this volume, 24 families with 429 genera comprising over 12,000 species are treated. Many of these belong to the vast family of the Euphorbiaceae (here conceived in a broader sense), followed by the Violaceae, whereas some of the remaining families are very small and even relictual. The revised classification includes a complete inventory of the genera belonging to the families treated in this volume, along with their diagnostic features and keys for their identification. References to the latest taxonomic literature and links to many different disciplines important to modern plant systematics make the volume a valuable source of information on the manifold aspects of plant diversity.
Santalales are predominantly hemiparasites connected with either the branches or the roots of other green land plants, whereas Balanophoraceae are holoparasites that form terrestrial tubers attached to the roots of woody hosts. In both orders, parasitism has led to considerable reductions of the vegetative and reproductive organs and detailed descriptions are given on the initiation of ramal and terrestrial parasitism in Santalales and the haustorial connection and tissue continuity between host and parasite in both groups. The dramatic reduction of the vegetative body in Balanophoraceae, which may lack all vegetative organs typically found in green land plants, has promoted studies in the field of developmental morphology. Thus, the volume not only provides an overview of the diversity of the plant groups treated therein, but also points to the interesting biological peculiarities that have evolved in connection with their singular lifestyle.
Beyond the treatment of phylogeny and formal taxonomy, the author presents a wide range of information on topics such as the structural characters of grasses, their related functional aspects and particularly corresponding findings from the field of developmental genetics with inclusion of genes and gene products instrumental in the shaping of morphological traits (in which this volume appears unique within this book series); further topics addressed include the contentious time of origin of the family, the emigration of the originally shade-loving grasses out of the forest to form vast grasslands accompanied by the switch of many members to C4 photosynthesis, the impact of herbivores on the silica cycle housed in the grass phytoliths, the reproductive biology of grasses, the domestication of major cereal crops and the affinities of grasses within the newly circumscribed order Poales.
This volume provides a comprehensive overview of existing knowledge on the Poaceae (Gramineae), with major implications in terms of key scientific challenges awaiting future research. It certainly will be of interest both for the grass specialist and also the generalist seeking state-of-the-art information on the diversity of grasses, the most ecologically and economically important of the families of flowering plants.