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Previous molecular phylogenetic analyses have revealed that elements of the former families Malvaceae sensu stricto and Bombacaceae together form a well-supported clade that has been named Malvatheca. Within Malvatheca, two major lineages have been observed; one, Bombacoideae, corresponds approximately to the palmate-leaved Bombacaceae, and the other, Malvoideae, includes the traditional Malvaceae (the mallows or Eumalvoideae). However, the composition of these two groups and their relationships to other elements of Malvatheca remain a source of uncertainty. Sequence data from two plastid regions, ndhF and trnK/matK, from 34 exemplars of Malvatheca and six outgroups were analyzed. Parsimony, likelihood, and Bayesian analyses of the sequence data provided a well-resolved phylogeny except that relationships among five lineages at the base of Malvatheca are poorly resolved. Nonetheless, a 6-bp insertion in matK suggests that Fremontodendreae is sister to the remainder of Malvatheca. Our results suggest that the Malvoideae originated in the Neotropics and that a mangrove taxon dispersed across the Pacific from South America to Australasia and later radiated out of Australasia to give rise to the ca. 1,700 living species of Eumalvoideae. Local clock analyses imply that the plastid genome underwent accelerated molecular evolution coincident with the dispersal out of the Americas and again with the radiation into the three major clades of Eumalvoideae.