Although Flacourtiaceae are often thought of as a highly artificial family, the genus Azara has long been recognized as a natural group. Azara is the only genus in Flacourtiaceae to possess foliar stipules which provide a unifying synapomorphy for the taxon. Major taxonomic treatments of Flacourtiaceae have placed Azara in the tribe Flacourtieae along with such genera as Flacourtia, Dovyalis, Idesia, Olmediella and Xylosma. However, interspecific relationships in Azara have been poorly elucidated. Gilg (1925) placed Azara species into three sections (Microazara, Celastrazara, and Euazara) which were defined using leaf and stamen characters. The most recent monograph by Sleumer (1977) also recognized three species groups within the genus, but these were not formally named. Sleumer defined these groups using a combination of inflorescence, floral and leaf characters. Our phylogenetic study combines nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequences to investigate interspecific relationships in Azara, and also to evaluate its relationship to other members of the tribe Flacourtieae. We sequenced the complete ITS region and trnL (chloroplast DNA) intron for 12 of the 13 Azara species, five other genera of tribe Flacourtieae, and from Scolopia (tribe Scolopieae). Outgroup sequences (Salicaceae) were obtained from GenBank. Overall, we find the groups delimited by Sleumer (1977) to be supported by both molecular data sets with one slight modification to recognize A. microphylla as a separate, monotypic group. Molecular data are also largely congruent with preliminary analyses of morphological characters in the genus and tribe.

Key words: Flacourtieae, ITS, systematics, trnL