The Metalasia clade (Asteraceae–Gnaphalieae) consisting of the genera Metalasia, Atrichantha, Calotesta, Dolichothrix, Hydroidea, Lachnospermum, Phaenocoma, and Planea is endemic to South Africa with a main distribution within the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), a region known for its remarkable botanical diversity.
The monophyly of the Metalasia clade, the relationships of its genera, and the circumscription of these as well as their position within the tribe Gnaphalieae is investigated using molecular data. The study confirms the Metalasia clade to be a monophyletic group, untangling the relationships between the included genera.
Five new Metalasia species have been described since the latest revision of the genus, three of which are described in the present work. An updated key to all 57 species of the genus is also provided.
A phylogenetic study of the genus Metalasia, including all 57 species, based on a combination of morphological and molecular data shows that Metalasia consists of two sister clades, Clade A and Clade B, morphologically separated by the papillose cypselas of Clade A. Metalasia is, however, not supported as monophyletic, and Lachnospermum is placed together with the Metalasia species of Clade B. Further, the monotypic Planea, originally described as Metalasia schlechteri, is placed well within Clade B.
A biogeographical study reveals Metalasia to have evolved in the CFR around 6.9 Ma. Ancestral area estimations present a possible scenario for the radiation of Metalasia and show a difference between Clade A and B, correlated to the different rainfall regimes of southern Africa. The results show that Clade B began to diversify around 6.4 Ma in the winter rainfall area, whereas the diversification of the Clade A crown group, which is estimated to only 3.3 Ma, was initiated in the all-year rainfall area.