A revision of the African genus Mesanthemum (Eriocaulaceae)
Phillips, Sylvia M.
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Mesanthemum is a genus comprising 16 species in the family Eriocaulaceae and is native to Africa and Madagascar. Eriocaulaceae are characterised by a basal tuft or rosette of narrow leaves and small flowers in heads. Mesanthemum can be recognised by diplostemonous flowers and fused glandular pistillate petals. While most Mesanthemum species are large perennial herbs, two small ephemeral species from West Africa, M. albidum and M. auratum differ from the rest of the genus by their shorter life cycle, smaller size, simpler floral structures and different seed surface patterning. A molecular phylogenetic study, morphological comparisons and scanning electron microscope (SEM) examination of seed coat sculpture were carried out to determine whether they should be separated as a new genus. The molecular results indicate that the two ephemeral species are nested in the Mesanthemum clade. However, they are not closely related to each other. All species of Mesanthemum are here revised, including the description of a new species M. alenicola from Equatorial Guinea. An identification key is provided, together with taxonomic descriptions, synonymy and notes. Images of the seeds as seen under SEM are provided where available. Lectotypifications are provided for Mesanthemum albidum, M. bennae, M. pilosum, M. prescottianum, M. pubescens and M. variabile. A neotype is selected for M. rutenbergianum, which is synonymised with M. pubescens.