Angiosperms at the edge: Extremity, diversity, and phylogeny


A hallmark of flowering plants is their ability to invade some of the most extreme and dynamic habitats, including cold and dry biomes, to a far greater extent than other land plants. Recent work has provided insight to the phylogenetic distribution and evolutionary mechanisms which have enabled this success, yet needed is a synthesis of evolutionary perspectives with plant physiological traits, morphology, and genomic diversity. Linking these disparate components will not only lead to better understand the evolutionary parallelism and diversification of plants with these two strategies, but also to provide the framework needed for directing future research. We summarize the primary physiological and structural traits involved in response to cold- and drought stress, outline the phylogenetic distribution of these adaptations, and describe the recurring association of these changes with rapid diversification events that occurred in multiple lineages over the past 15 million years. Across these threefold facets of dry-cold correlation (traits, phylogeny, and time) we stress the contrast between (a) the amazing diversity of solutions flowering plants have developed in the face of extreme environments and (b) a broad correlation between cold and dry adaptations that in some cases may hint at deep common origins.

Plant Cell Environ.