Symphonia (Clusiaceae) is a tropical woody plant genus with a center of diversity in Madagascar, and one species, S. globulifera disjunct in Africa and the neotropics. Two contrasting hypotheses have been proposed regarding this distribution pattern and the origins of the genus: one suggesting an African origin, the other suggesting a Malagasy origin. A phylogeny constructed using sequences of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of nuclear ribosomal DNA show that the Malagasy and neotropical species form two monophyletic groups, each sister to an intervening African clade. Calibration of this phylogeny with an African fossil from the late Eocene and a Mexican fossil from the oligo-miocene boundary resulted in dating (a neotropical radiation at 40.3-26.8 Ma and a Malagasy radiation at 16.0-8.6 Ma) which supported an African hypothesis.

Key words: biogeography, Clusiaceae, ITS sequences, phylogeny, Symphonia