Among commelinoids, bromeliads display low rates of chloroplast sequence evolution. However, the large, rapidly evolving, chloroplast-encoded ndhF gene displays useful amounts of sequence variation for phylogenetic reconstruction. We obtained 17 new ndhF sequences for major bromeliad groups unsampled in previous surveys to present a more complete picture of evolution in this important Neotropical group. Parsimony analysis using members of Poales as outgroups indicated that Mayaca is sister to Bromeliaceae. The family itself appears to have arisen in the ancient Guayana Shield, based on the presence at its base of a grade of genera (Brocchinia, Lindmania, Connellia) restricted to that region. Subfamily Tillandsioideae is monophyletic, and also appears to have arisen in the Guayana Shield, based on its being nested between the basal grade and another clade (Brewcaria, Navia, “Brocchinia” serrata) restricted to that region, and based on the present-day occurrence of the two basal tillandsioid genera (Catopsis, Glomeropitcairnia) partly or wholly in areas adjacent to the Guayana Shield. The xeric clade (Abromeitiella, Deuterocohnia, Dyckia, Encholirium, Hechtia) characterized by tough, succulent leaves and CAM photosynthesis, is closely related to Pitcairnia; both groups are sister to a clade composed of Puya and the subfamily Bromelioideae. The ndhF phylogeny implies two major migrations from the ancestral Guayana Shield, giving rise to Tillandsioideae and to Bromelioideae embedded within a grade of genera formerly assigned to subfamily Pitcairnioideae. The pitcairnioids are highly paraphyletic and appear to represent five distinct clades: Brocchinia, Lindmania-Connellia, Brewcaria-Navia-”Brocchinia serrata”, the xeric clade + Pitcairnia, and Puya. Epiphytism appears to have arisen several times in the family, in basalmost Brocchinia, in tillandsioids, and in bromelioids. Cushion plants at high elevations in the Andes (Abromeitiella, Deuterocohnia) appear to have evolved from lowland forms adapted to severe drought.

Key words: Brocchinia, Bromeliaceae, Guayana Shield, Lindmania, Mayaca, Navia