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While not being especially species rich (≈12 spp), their diversification began ≈17 Ma; crown , the largest and arguably most succulent lineage, is ≈11 Ma. This node age is substantially older than a previous report that suggested a rapid radiation in this group 8.7–3.8 Ma (14); however, our taxon sampling of core Ruschioideae was too sparse to allow for investigation of diversification shifts within this group that, of course, may have occurred more recently.

Our crown age estimate of core Ruschioideae (the ice plants, Aizoaceae), an extremely species-rich and fundamental component of the Succulent Karoo flora of South Africa, is ≈17 Ma (Figs. CO2, global temperature, C4 origins, C4 grasslands, and the diversification of succulent plants during the late Miocene/Pliocene.

There has been much speculation about their age, but progress in dating cactus origins has been hindered by the lack of fossil data for cacti or their close relatives.

Using a hybrid phylogenomic approach, we estimated that the cactus lineage diverged from its closest relatives ≈35 million years ago (Ma).

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The cacti are one of the most celebrated radiations of succulent plants.

We identified five additional shifts in diversification rate in the cacti, the majority occurring within the last 8 Ma (Table 1).

With the exception of the genus (the prickly pears), these shifts occurred at nodes nested within or just outside named taxonomic groups (2).

Despite their ecological importance, the timing of cactus origins and diversification has remained enigmatic.

Previous work has emphasized the fact that the cacti are extremely diverse yet almost exclusively New World in distribution, suggesting a possible origin between 90 and 65 Ma, which would allow maximal time for diversification and a spatial separation of Africa and South America (3, 4).

These lineages include the ice plants (Aizoaceae, ≈2,000 spp), the spurges (, ≈200 spp.), the stapeliads and asclepiads (Apocynaceae-Asclepiadoideae, ≈3,700 spp., ≈1,150 of which are succulent) and especially the cacti (Cactaceae, ≈1,850 spp.) (2).