Most Cactaceae have succulent stems and inhabit dry or arid areas, but some are epiphytes of humid regions. Rhipsalis is the largest genus of epiphytic cacti. Species of Rhipsalis are notoriously difficult to identify, and the subgeneric classification of the genus has remained controversial. Between 1837 and 1995, eight different subgeneric classifications have been proposed for Rhipsalis. The most comprehensive taxonomic treatment of the genus recognized five subgenera, Phyllarthrorhipsalis, Rhipsalis, Epallagogonium, Calamorhipsalis, and Erythrorhipsalis, characterized mainly by stem morphology. Here, molecular phylogenetic information combined with morphological data is used to re-evaluate the former subgeneric classifications proposed for the genus. Three monophyletic subgenera are recognized, Rhipsalis, Calamorhipsalis and Erythrorhipsalis, which are mainly characterized by floral traits. The changes proposed include expanding the circumscription of Rhipsalis by the inclusion of species previously included in Phyllarthrorhipsalis and Epallagogonium and recognizing a broader Calamorhipsalis, also including species from subgenus Epallagogonium. The circumscription of Erythrorhipsalis remains unchanged. For each subgenus a list of synonyms, a brief description and a list of species included are presented. A key for the identification of subgenera is also provided.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4