A new subfamily classification of the leguminosae based on a taxonomically comprehensive phylogeny

Nasim Azani, Marielle Babineau, C. Donovan Bailey, Hannah Banks, Ariane R. Barbosa, Rafael Barbosa Pinto, James S. Boatwright, Leonardo M. Borges, Gillian K. Brown, Anne Bruneau*, Elisa Candido, Domingos Cardoso, Kuo Fang Chung, Ruth P. Clark, Adilva De S. Conceição, Michael Crisp, Paloma Cubas, Alfonso Delgado-Salinas, Kyle G. Dexter, Jeff J. DoyleJérôme Duminil, Ashley N. Egan, Manuel De La Estrella, Marcus J. Falcão, Dmitry A. Filatov, Ana Paula Fortuna-Perez, Renée H. Fortunato, Edeline Gagnon, Peter Gasson, Juliana Gastaldello Rando, Ana Maria Goulart de Azevedo Tozzi, Bee Gunn, David Harris, Elspeth Haston, Julie A. Hawkins, Patrick S. Herendeen, Colin E. Hughes, João R.V. Iganci, Firouzeh Javadi, Sheku Alfred Kanu, Shahrokh Kazempour-Osaloo, Geoffrey C. Kite, Bente B. Klitgaard, Fábio J. Kochanovski, Erik J.M. Koenen, Lynsey Kovar, Matt Lavin, Marianne Le Roux, Gwilym P. Lewis, Haroldo C. De Lima, The Legume Phylogeny Working Group (LPWG)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

286 Scopus citations


The classification of the legume family proposed here addresses the long-known non-monophyly of the traditionally recognised subfamily Caesalpinioideae, by recognising six robustly supported monophyletic subfamilies. This new classification uses as its framework the most comprehensive phylogenetic analyses of legumes to date, based on plastid matK gene sequences, and including near-complete sampling of genera (698 of the currently recognised 765 genera) and ca. 20% (3696) of known species. The matK gene region has been the most widely sequenced across the legumes, and in most legume lineages, this gene region is sufficiently variable to yield well-supported clades. This analysis resolves the same major clades as in other phylogenies of whole plastid and nuclear gene sets (with much sparser taxon sampling). Our analysis improves upon previous studies that have used large phylogenies of the Leguminosae for addressing evolutionary questions, because it maximises generic sampling and provides a phylogenetic tree that is based on a fully curated set of sequences that are vouchered and taxonomically validated. The phylogenetic trees obtained and the underlying data are available to browse and download, facilitating subsequent analyses that require evolutionary trees. Here we propose a new community-endorsed classification of the family that reflects the phylogenetic structure that is consistently resolved and recognises six subfamilies in Leguminosae: a recircumscribed Caesalpinioideae DC., Cercidoideae Legume Phylogeny Working Group (stat. nov.), Detarioideae Burmeist., Dialioideae Legume Phylogeny Working Group (stat. nov.), Duparquetioideae Legume Phylogeny Working Group (stat. nov.), and Papilionoideae DC. The traditionally recognised subfamily Mimosoideae is a distinct clade nested within the recircumscribed Caesalpinioideae and is referred to informally as the mimosoid clade pending a forthcoming formal tribal and/or cladebased classification of the new Caesalpinioideae. We provide a key for subfamily identification, descriptions with diagnostic charactertistics for the subfamilies, figures illustrating their floral and fruit diversity, and lists of genera by subfamily. This new classification of Leguminosae represents a consensus view of the international legume systematics community; it invokes both compromise and practicality of use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-77
Number of pages34
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2017


  • Caesalpinioideae
  • Cercidoideae
  • Detarioideae
  • Dialioideae
  • Duparquetioideae
  • Mimosoid clade
  • Papilionoideae
  • Plastid matK phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science

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    Azani, N., Babineau, M., Bailey, C. D., Banks, H., Barbosa, A. R., Pinto, R. B., Boatwright, J. S., Borges, L. M., Brown, G. K., Bruneau, A., Candido, E., Cardoso, D., Chung, K. F., Clark, R. P., Conceição, A. D. S., Crisp, M., Cubas, P., Delgado-Salinas, A., Dexter, K. G., ... The Legume Phylogeny Working Group (LPWG) (2017). A new subfamily classification of the leguminosae based on a taxonomically comprehensive phylogeny. Taxon, 66(1), 44-77. https://doi.org/10.12705/661.3