Exploring Angiosperms353: An open, community toolkit for collaborative phylogenomic research on flowering plants
The unveiling of the angiosperm (flowering plant) tree of life over the past three decades has been one of the great success stories of modern plant biology. Flowering plants underpin most terrestrial biomes: they fix vast amounts of terrestrial carbon, in turn producing a substantial fraction of planetary oxygen, and drive major biogeochemical cycles. The bulk of human calories are derived either directly (crops) or indirectly (fodder) from angiosperms, as are many medicines, fuel, dyes, beverages, timber, fibers, and other materials. Countless indispensable and mundane items that impact human existence find their origins in flowering plants, and without them, life would be decidedly drearier—imagine a world without herbs, spices, or garden flowers, for example. In this context, the importance of a comprehensive understanding of the angiosperm tree of life cannot be overstated. The tree of life is the fundamental, biological roadmap to the evolution and properties of plants (e.g., Wong et al., 2020). For evolutionary biologists, phylogenies allow us to better understand the spectacular rise of the flowering plants to dominance over the past 140 million or so years (e.g., Lutzoni et al., 2018; Ramírez-Barahona et al., 2020). Information about angiosperm phylogenetic relationships also underpins modern angiosperm classification (e.g., APG IV, 2016), and helps us to better understand species origins and boundaries (e.g., Fazekas et al., 2009). Today, tree of life research is undergoing a renaissance due to the development of powerful, new phylogenomic methods (Dodsworth et al., 2019). In this special issue of the American Journal of Botany, together with a companion issue of Applications in Plant Sciences, we gather a set of papers that focus on a new, common phylogenomic toolkit, the Angiosperms353 probe set (Johnson et al., 2019), and illustrate its potential for evolutionary synthesis by promoting open collaboration across our community.