Relationships of Marantaceae were estimated from nucleotide sequence variation in the rps16 intron (plastid DNA) and from morphological characters. Fifty-nine species (21 genera) formed the ingroup, and 12 species (12 genera) of other Zingiberales formed the outgroup. There is no support for the traditional subdivision of Marantaceae into a triovulate and a uniovulate tribe or the informal groups previously proposed. The so-called Donax group forms a paraphyletic grade that is basal within Marantaceae. Thalia appears as the distal branch of this grade, but its position is not supported in jackknife analysis. The so-called Calathea group is monophyletic in all shortest trees but not supported with greater than 50% jackknife. The genus Calathea appears to be paraphyletic. The Maranta and Phrynium groups are clearly polyphyletic. Maranta, Koernickanthe, and genera of the Mymsma group, all neotropical, form a strongly supported monophyletic group. The sister of this group is the palaeotropical genus Halopegia. Koernickanthe is nested within Maranta, as this genus is traditionally circumscribed. The African genera Ataenidia and Marantochloa form a strongly supported clade in which Ataenidia is the sister group to Marantochloa. Based on phylogeny it is concluded that Africa, in spite of being much poorer in species, is the most likely ancestral area of Marantaceae.