A monogeneric family with two species distributed in North America (Kühn 1993; Hils & al. 2003), from the western United States to northwest Mexico. The family includes shrubs characterised by having thorny branches, ebracteolate and unisexual flowers, the staminate flowers are arranged in spikes whereas the pistillate ones are solitary (Wels & al. 2003).Traditionally, the only genus Sarcobatus Nees was placed in Chenopodiaceae (for a detailed taxonomic history until the nineties see Behnke 1997). The early molecular phylogenetic study by Downie & al. (1997) supported the position of Sarcobatus as an independent lineage. In this study, Sarcobatus showed a close relationship with members of Nyctaginaceae and Phytolaccaceae rather than Chenopodiaceae. Based on these results in addition to characters of the sieve-element plastids and some morphological characters, Behnke (1997) described the new family; nevertheless, some authors continued to treat the genus as part of Chenopodiaceae (e.g. Hils & al. 2003). The position of Sarcobatus as independent lineage was confirmed by other molecular phylogenetic studies (e.g. Cuénoud & al. 2002; Hilu & al. 2003; Brockington 2009, 2011; Soltis & al. 2011; Schäferhoff & al. 2009) which showed a close but only moderately supported relationship of the family with Agdestidaceae.
Sarcobataceae in Taxon 46: 503. 1997 sec. APG III (2009)
- Type: Sarcobatus