Skip to main content
You are here
Facebook icon
Pinterest icon
Twitter icon

Grace, Olwen M.

Photo of Olwen Grace
Job title: 

Research Leader, Character Evolution

Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology
Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 


Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BSc (Hons), University Natal, 1999
  • MSc, University Natal, 2002
  • PhD University of Pretoria, 2009
  • Council Member, Systematics Association
  • Review Board Editor, South African Journal of Botany

My research programme is concerned with the diversity of desert plants in a changing world.

I study global patterns in succulent plant diversity and the evolutionary processes underlying their extraordinary adaptations and ecological success. Much of my work is focussed on African succulent plants, particularly the charismatic genus Aloe (Xanthorrhoeaceae). I’m interested in phylogenetics as a tool for identifying patterns in plant value and useful properties, and how these can be applied to decision-making around priority species in research and conservation.

My research approach integrates the laboratory with field observations, and curated living collections of plants in botanic gardens. At Kew, I contribute to various projects to enhance science in the garden, including the restored Temperate House which re-opens in 2018.

Selected publications: 

Grace, O. M., Buerki, S., Symonds, M. R. E., Forest, F., van Wyk, A. E., Smith, G. F., Klopper, R. R., Bjora, C. S., Sophie Neale, Demissew, S., Simmonds,  M. S. J. & Ronsted, N. (2015). Evolutionary history and leaf succulence as explanations for medicinal use in aloes and the global popularity of Aloe vera. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 29. doi:10.1186/s12862-015-0291-7.

Grace, O. M., Dzajic, A., Jäger, A. K., Nyberg, N. T., Onder, A. & Rønsted, N. (2013). Monosaccharide analysis of succulent leaf tissue in Aloe. Phytochemistry 93: 79-87. Available online

Grace, O. M., Klopper, R. R., Smith, G. F., Crouch, N. R., Figueiredo, E., Rønsted, N. & Van Wyk, A.E. (2013). A revised generic classification for Aloe (Xanthorrhoeaceae subfam. Asphodeloideae). Phytotaxa 76: 7-14.

Grace, O. M., Klopper, R. R., Figueiredo, E. & Smith, G. F. (2011). The Aloe Names Book. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Grace, O. M. (2011). Current perspectives on the economic botany of the genus Aloe L. (Xanthorrhoeaceae). South African Journal of Botany 77: 980-987. Available online



Research Gate: Olwen Grace

Google Scholar: Olwen Grace