Taxonomic revision of the Mesoamerican genus Spathacanthus (Justicieae, Acanthoideae, Acanthaceae)


Spathacanthus is a Mesoamerican genus that occurs in tropical and temperate regions from southern Mexico to Costa Rica; its taxonomy has not been updated for two decades. In view of the fact that a new species has been discovered and that the interspecific affinities in this genus have not been addressed to date, the present study aims to revise the genus Spathacanthus. Specimens of plants of this genus collected from across the distribution range and deposited in herbaria and digital databases were reviewed. In parallel, a cladistic analysis was carried out, based on morphological characters in order to examine relationships between species. Four species of Spathacanthus were recognised: one endemic to Costa Rica, another micro-endemic to Veracruz in Mexico, one more restricted to the forests of Mexico and Guatemala and the last one more widely distributed. Reflecting the previously limited knowledge of the group, many of
the specimens that we studied had been misidentified. A key to differentiate these species is provided, supplemented with photographs, drawings and other illustrations, morphological descriptions, synonymy and ecological data. Results, presented here, extend the distribution range of some taxa and a distribution map is presented. The cladistic analysis recovered the genus as monophyletic, showing that S. hoffmannii and S. hahnianus are sister taxa and S. magdalenae was found to be more closely related to S. parviflorus. These plants are vulnerable to degradation and habitat loss.

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