Although relationships between the lilioid and commelinoid monocot orders are still unresolved, there is emerging consensus regarding family relationships within these orders, prompting a reevaluation of character evolution in these groups. In particular, relationships are now fairly well established between the basal clades of the large monocot order Asparagales (the asparagoid lilies), based mainly on molecular data. Asparagales comprise a 'higher asparagoid' clade and a 'lower asparagoid' grade, which includes some small families such as Tecophilaeaceae, the monogeneric Eurasian family Ixioliriaceae, and the monotypic South African genus Lanaria (Lanariaceae), plus some large, cosmopolitan families such as Iridaceae and Orchidaceae, the latter putatively sister to all other Asparagales. A revised morphological cladistic analysis of Asparagales was undertaken to evaluate character support for these hypotheses of relationships and assess character evolution in Asparagales. Synapomorphies for the order include the presence of simultaneous microsporogenesis, epigynous ovaries, and phytomelan in the seed coat, but there are some reversals in these characters, especially in the higher asparagoids. A major reversal to hypogyny in the higher asparagoids and their sister clade is concomitant with the presence of infralocular septal nectaries in the latter. Recurrent evolutionary themes in floral structure of lower asparagoids include loss or reduction of either one stamen whorl (in actinomorphic taxa) or selected stamens (in zygomorphic taxa), and various other androecial and gynoecial modifications, such as centrifixed anthers, presence of a gynostemium (primarily an orchid character), and unilocular ovaries.

Key words: Asparagales, evolution, floral anatomy, systematics