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The woody evergreen plant Amborella trichopoda Baill. (Figs. 1a, 2a, 3b), the only species of Amborellaecae, is endemic to New Caledonia in the South Pacific (Jérémie, 1982).  This species has attracted worldwide attention, as molecular phylogenies constructed with a variety of genes place it as the sister group of the rest of the flowering plants  (Mathews & Donoghue, 1999; Qiu et al., 1999; Soltis et al. 1999). It is a member of the paraphyletic ANITA group, a grade comprising the first three branches of angiosperm phylogeny [Amborellaceae, Nymphaeaceae and Austrobaileyales (Austrobaileyaceae, Illiciaceae, Schisandraceae, and Trimeniaceae); APG II, 2003].  There is some controversy over the precise branching order at the base of the flowering plant tree (Parkinson et al., 1999; Barkman et al., 2000; Graham & Olmstead, 2000: Graham et al. 2000; Qiu. el al. 2000, 2001; Zanis et al. 2002), but Amborella is clearly the sole living representative of a lineage that emerged at (or at least very close to) the base of the crown (extant) flowering plants.

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