Grapevine 3D inflorescence architecture was comprehensively characterized among 10 wild Vitis species to reveal new phenotypic and evolutionary relationships.
Inflorescence architecture provides the scaffold on which flowers and fruits develop, and consequently is a primary trait under investigation in many crop systems. Yet the challenge remains to analyse these complex 3D branching structures with appropriate tools. High information content datasets are required to represent the actual structure and facilitate full analysis of both the geometric and the topological features relevant to phenotypic variation in order to clarify evolutionary and developmental inflorescence patterns. We combined advanced imaging (X-ray tomography) and computational approaches (topological and geometric data analysis and structural simulations) to comprehensively characterize grapevine inflorescence architecture (the rachis and all branches without berries) among 10 wild Vitis species. Clustering and correlation analyses revealed unexpected relationships, for example pedicel branch angles were largely independent of other traits. We identified multivariate traits that typified species, which allowed us to classify species with 78.3% accuracy, versus 10% by chance. Twelve traits had strong signals across phylogenetic clades, providing insight into the evolution of inflorescence architecture. We provide an advanced framework to quantify 3D inflorescence and other branched plant structures that can be used to tease apart subtle, heritable features for a better understanding of genetic and environmental effects on plant phenotypes.