Temporal range: Early Cretaceous – Recent 124–0Ma
Ranunculales is an order of flowering plants. Of necessity it contains the family Ranunculaceae, the buttercup family, because the name of the order is based on the name of a genus in that family. Ranunculales belongs to a paraphyletic group known as the basal eudicots. It is the most basal clade in this group; in other words, it is sister to the remaining eudicots.
The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group recognized seven families in Ranunculales in their APG III system, published in 2009. In the preceding APG II system, they offered the option of three segregate families as shown below.
- order Ranunculales
Note: "+ ..." = optionally separate family (that may be split off from the preceding family).
- order Ranunculales
In the Cronquist system, the Papaveraceae and Fumariaceae (including the plants in the optional family Pteridophyllaceae) were treated as a separate order Papaverales, placed in this same subclass Magnoliidae. The Cronquist circumscription of Ranunculales is now known to be polyphyletic. Sabiaceae is in a clade of basal eudicots separate from Ranunculales. Coriariaceae is now placed in the order Cucurbitales.
A recently discovered fossil (Leefructus) has been recognized as a member of this order. Leefructus mirus shows fully developed leaves; stem and flower that are very similar in structure to those of the modern buttercups. The fossil is dated to 125 million years old and it not only proves that Ranunculales is an ancient group of eudicots but demonstrates that the whole angiosperm clade may be older than expected. The structure of the plant and its age may lead to a new approach regarding the field that studies the evolution of flowering plants. The fact that Leefructus shows a well developed structure similar to modern ranunculids suggests that this group of eudicots may have developed earlier than the age of the fossil.
- Wei Wang; An-Ming Lu, Yi Ren, Mary E. Endress, and Zhi-Duan Chen (2009). "Phylogeny and Classification of Ranunculales: Evidence from four molecular loci and morphological data". Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11 (2): 81–110. doi:10.1016/j.ppees.2009.01.001.
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