One of the most interesting facets of angiosperm biogeography is the disjunct distribution of closely related plant groups. When seeking plausible explanations for the origins of biogeographical patterns, analyses of the phylogenetic relationships of disjunct taxa are critical. It is particularly important to seek a phylogenetic framework when morphological data is sparse or ambiguous, as is the case for the family Staphyleaceae. The family, (composed of three genera, Staphylea, Euscaphis, and Turpinia, totaling 50-60 species) exhibits two intriguing biogeographical patterns. Staphylea is distributed in temperate North America, Europe and Asia, while Turpinia is disjunct between the tropics of the new world (Mexico to South America) and the old world (central Asia to Papua New Guinea). The genus Euscaphis is monotypic and occurs in eastern Asia. The three genera of Staphyleaceae are delimited primarily on the basis of fruit type, with few other characters to distinguish them. This raises additional questions: is the presence of fleshy fruits (Turpinia) the result of a relictual distribution of a wider ranging fleshy-fruited taxon, or are the fruits a misinterpreted result of convergence? To answer questions regarding biogeographical patterns, generic circumscription, phylogenetic relationships within the genera, and character convergence we initiated a study using sequence data from one nuclear (ITS 1 and 2) and two chloroplast (matK-psbA and trnT-trnL) regions. Results from comparative studies based on sequence data revealed that traditional generic groupings are polyphyletic and a re-evaluation of the generic limits is necessary. Data gathered to date and its implications for the interpretation of the biogeographic history of Staphyleaceae will be discussed.

Key words: biogeography, Euscaphis, ITS, Staphylea, Staphyleaceae, Turpinia