Eugenia is the most species-rich Neotropical genus. This ‘Research in Context’ article explores the extraordinary evolutionary success of Eugenia sect. Phyllocalyx using a phylogenetic framework, molecular dating, ancestral area reconstruction and ecological niche modelling.
Phylogenetic relationships reveal that Eugenia diversified most rapidly within the eastern tropical American forests, dispersing twice to the cerrado and once to the southern Amazon, and exhibiting different species composition from north-eastern and south-eastern Atlantic forests. De Oliveira Bünger et al. suggest that sites of climate stability provided a refugium in the biodiversity hotspot of the south-eastern Atlantic forest during the Quaternary, thereby contributing to elevated species diversity.