Sowing the seeds of Zingiberales

Providing unique insights into seed morphology and distribution patterns of a large, diverse plant order.

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 55,309 species occurrences
Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum)

Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) by Ken-ichi Ueda via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

A myriad of factors contributes to the genotypic and phenotypic diversity found in organisms on Earth, and understanding the underlying processes is a fundamental question in biology. In this study, researchers address this question by investigating the morphologically diverse angiosperm order of Zingiberales, members of which include bananas and gingers, mainly found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Through a combination of seed analysis using X-ray microscopy and ecological niche mapping based on GBIF-mediated occurrences, the authors explore the properties of 166 taxa from eight different families.

­­Morphologically, an extraordinary diversity exists among Zingiberales seeds, but numerous traits unite families. The ecological niches are similar across the order as ninety per cent are distributed in the tropics and subtropics with similar parameters in terms of altitude, precipitation and temperate. One family, Zingiberaceae, however, stands out by also inhabiting frostprone temperate regions.

Benedict JC, Smith SY, Specht CD, Collinson ME, Leong-Škorničková J, Parkinson DY and Marone F (2016) Species diversity driven by morphological and ecological disparity: a case study of comparative seed morphology and anatomy across a large monocot order. AoB Plants. Oxford University Press (OUP) 8: plw063. Available at: