Pulsatilla (Anemoneae, Ranunculaceae) is sister to Anemone s.s. and contains ca 40 perennial species of considerable horticultural and medical importance. We sequenced 31 of those species, plus nine subspecies, two cultivars and six outgroups, for two nuclear regions (high-copy nrITS and low-copy MLH1) and three plastid regions (rbcL, accD–psaI, trnL intron) in order to generate the first comprehensive species-level phylogeny of the genus. Phylogenetic trees were constructed using both concatenation-based (maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference) and coalescence methods. The better supported among the internal nodes were subjected to molecular clock dating and ancestral area reconstruction, and karyotypic characters identified by us using Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization were mapped across the tree. The preferred species tree from the coalescence analysis formed the basis of a new infrageneric classification based on monophyly plus degree of divergence. The earliest divergent of the three subgenera, Kostyczewianae, is represented by only a single species that is morphologically intermediate between Anemone s.s. and ‘core’ Pulsatilla. Subgenus Pulsatilla is considerably richer in species than its sister subgenus Preonanthus and contains three monophyletic sections. Species possessing nodding flowers and pectinately dissected leaves are phylogenetically derived compared with groups possessing erect flowers and palmately lobed leaves. Pulsatilla separated from Anemone s.s. at ca 25 Ma. Our results indicate a central Asian mountain origin of the genus and an initial diversification correlated with late Tertiary global cooling plus regional mountain uplift, aridification and consequent expansion of grasslands. The more rapid and extensive diversification within subgenus Pulsatilla began at ca 3 Ma and continued throughout the Quaternary, driven not only by major perturbations in global climate but also by well-documented polyploidy. © 2019 Elsevier Inc.
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