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Baker, William J. [Bill]

Photo of Bill Baker
Job title: 

Assistant Keeper of the Herbarium and Head of Palm Research

Herbarium, Library, Art and Archives
Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 

French, Indonesian

Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BA (Hons), Univ. Oxford, 1993
  • MSc, Univ. Reading, 1994
  • PhD, Univ. Reading, 1997
  • Chair, IUCN-SSC Palm Specialist Group
  • Council Member, Systematics Association
  • Rock Garden Plant Comm., Royal Horticultural Society
  • Trustee, The Merlin Trust

I am Assistant Keeper of the Herbarium at Kew, leading Kew’s systematic research teams. My research focuses on tropical botany, especially taxonomy, systematics and evolution of palms.

Evolution, systematics and biogeography of palms

  • Research focusing on evolution and diversity in the palm family, addressing phylogenetic relationships and classification of palms at all taxonomic levels using a range of data sources.
  • Interpreting evolutionary process within a phylogenetic context, for example, the evolution of floral morphology and reproductive biology.
  • Investigating the origins of diversity at the species level through interdisciplinary studies, for example, testing hypotheses of sympatric speciation on oceanic islands.
  • Exploring the nature and origins of global patterns of palm diversity.
  • Floristic interests in the Old World, especially SE Asia. Working towards a monograph of palms in New Guinea, a collaborative project integrating taxonomic research and capacity building.
  • Developing new approaches to the delivery of taxonomic data via the web and leading the palm biodiversity information portal, Palmweb.
Selected publications: 

Couvreur, T. L. P., Baker, W. J. (2013). Tropical rain forest evolution: palms as a model group. BMC Biology 11: 48. Available online

Baker, W. J. and Couvreur, T. L. P. (2013). Global biogeography and diversification of palms sheds light on the evolution of tropical lineages. II. Diversification history and origin of regional assemblages. Journal of Biogeography 40: 286–298 Available online

Couvreur, T. L. P., Forest, F., Baker, W. J. (2011). Origin and global diversification patterns of tropical rain forests: inferences from a complete genus-level phylogeny of palms. BMC Biology 9: 44. Available online

Baker, W. J., Savolainen, V., Asmussen-Lange, C. B., Chase, M. W., Dransfield, J. F., Forest, F., Harley, M. M., Uhl, N. W. & Wilkinson, M. (2009). Complete generic-level phylogenetic analyses of palms (Arecaceae) with comparisons of supertree and supermatrix approaches. Systematic Biology 58: 240–256. Available online

Dransfield, J., Uhl, N. W., Asmussen, C. B., Baker, W. J., Harley, M. M. & Lewis, C. E. (2008). Genera Palmarum – the evolution and classification of palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 732 pages Buy from Kew books