The fawn-lilies (Erythronium) are a group of spring-flowering bulbous plants that are distributed widely in both Eurasia and North America, and reach their greatest diversity (18 of 28 species) in western North America. We carried out phylogenetic analyses of species from all geographical regions based on ITS and partial matK DNA sequences. Our results indicate that Erythronium is of Old World origin and is closely related to Tulipa, and that the species of eastern and western North America belong to separate clades that may have become established independently in the New World. Several morphological and ecological features of this group, including mottled leaves, vegetative propagation by bulb offsets, and adaptation to high-elevation environments, appear to have arisen more than once. Although some of these features have historically been used as a basis for infrageneric classification of the fawn-lilies, it seems likely that they reflect adaptation of individual species or groups to specific habitats.

Key words: Erythronium, ITS, matK, phylogeny