Fruits and seeds of the dioecious family Menispermaceae are notable for their remarkable variation as well as for the excellent details preserved in the fossil record. Endocarps can range in shape from erect to reniform to circinnate and are frequently ornamented with unique wings and protrusions. Seeds are sometimes observed cupping a ventral intrusion known as the “condyle” and can vary with regard to embryo shape, presence of endosperm, and orientation of the cotyledons. Although features such as these have traditionally provided many important taxonomic characters, they have never been tested objectively for their ability to distinguish natural groups. Classifications within the Menispermaceae have historically been unstable at the tribal as well as generic level. A preliminary combined analysis using morphological and molecular sequence data from the chloroplast trnL intron refutes the monophyly of at least some menisperm tribes and suggests novel relationships at the generic level.

Key words: classification, fruit, Menispermaceae, systematics