Palm Phylogenetics and Exhibition

Kew botanists have collaborated in publishing the most comprehensive phylogeny of arecoid palms, and have also helped to produce a major new exhibition on palms, opening in Berlin on 20 May 2011.

20 May 2011

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The World of Palms - exhibition poster

‘The World of Palms’ exhibition runs from 20 May 2011 to 26 February 2012 at the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is collaborating in an exhibition ‘The World of Palms’ (‘Die Welt der Palmen’) to be staged at the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem (20 May 2011 to 26 February 2012). The exhibition tells the story of the diversity, biology and uses of palms across the world. Many artefacts and images of palms have been provided by Kew and several are being displayed in public for the first time.

Over 50% of all palm species fall within a single subfamily, the Arecoideae. Arecoid palms are widespread throughout the tropics and subtropics, displaying exceptional levels of endemism in the Neotropics and Indo-Pacific region. Many are keystone species in tropical forest ecosystems, influencing forest structure and composition, as well as biotic interactions. The subfamily also contains the most economically important of all palms, the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and the coconut (Cocos nucifera), among many other species that are useful to man.

Bill Baker and his collaborators have recently published the most comprehensive phylogeny of subfamily Arecoideae. The analyses, which were based on the low-copy nuclear DNA regions PRK and RPB2, sampled 190 species and almost all of the 103 genera. The study strongly supports the classification presented in the Genera Palmarum (J. Dransfield et al. 2008. Kew Publishing), but also highlight remaining ambiguities, notably among Indo-Pacific groups, that will only be resolved with data from new sources.

Item from Dr Bill Baker (Head of Palm Research, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)
Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 39

Article reference

Baker, W.J., Norup, M.V., Clarkson, J.J.,. Couvreur, T.L.P., Dowe, J.L., Lewis, C.E., Pintaud, J.C., Savolainen, V., Wilmot, T. & Chase, M.W. (2011). Phylogenetic relationships among arecoid palms (Arecaceae: Arecoideae). Annals of Botany doi:10.1093/aob/mcr020.

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