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Wilkin, Paul

Job title: 

Lilioid & Alismatid Monocots Team Leader

Monocot Systematics
Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 

functional French, basic Spanish.

Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BA, Natural Sciences, Cambridge, 1987
  • MSc, Pure & Applied Plant Taxonomy, Univ. Reading, 1988
  • PhD, Univ. Reading, 1993.
  • Member of Palynology Specialist Group, Linnaean Society
  • Council & Newsletter Editor, Systematics Association (2002-2005).

Systematics, ethnobotany, sustainable use, economic botany and domestication of Dioscoreales, the yams and their allies.

Main research focus is the systematics, ethnobotany, sustainable use and conservation of Dioscoreales, the yams and their allies. The importance of these plants as a starch source, especially in the seasonally dry tropics, has lead to an interest in the economic botany, domestication and human selection in the c. 70 species which provide edible tubers. In particular, making studies of the cultivated guinea yams (Dioscorea cayenensis complex) in SW Ethiopia and the many wild edible yams of Thailand and Madagascar. Comparative biology of Dioscoreales, including floral, pollen, seed, vegetative and underground organ morphology and its development have also been a feature of the research. This programme is underpinned by baseline surveys and inventories in Dioscoreaceae, especially in Madagascar and Thailand. These two relatively small countries both have about 10% of the world’s Dioscorea species. Management of the Lilioid & Alismatid monocot section of the Herbarium, and active in imaging and databasing Monocot herbarium holdings. Other monocot taxa being worked on or in which students are supervised include Dracaena, Erythronium and Cipureae (Iridaceae) of Bolivia. These areas of interest are likely to expand in future as Dioscoreales projects are completed.

Selected publications: 

Schols, P., Wilkin, P., Furness, C.A., Huysmans, S. & Smets, E. (2005). Pollen evolution in yams (Dioscorea, Dioscoreaceae). Systematic Botany 30 (4) 750–758.

Wilkin, P., Schols, P., Chase, M.W., Chayamarit, K., Furness, C.A., Huysmans, S., Rakotonasolo, F., Smets, E. & Thapyai, C. (2005). A plastid gene phylogeny of the yam genus, Dioscorea: roots, fruits and madagascar.Systematic Botany 30 (4):736–749.

Caddick, L.R., Rudall, P.J., Wilkin, P., Hedderson, T.A.J. & Chase, M.W. (2002). Phylogenetics of Dioscoreales Based on Combined Analyses of Morphological and Molecular Data. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 138(2): 123-144.

Caddick, L.R., Wilkin, P., Rudall, P.J., Hedderson, T.A.J. & Chase, M.W. (2002). Yams reclassified: a recircumscription of Dioscoreaceae and Dioscoreales. Taxon 51 (1) 103-114.

Wilkin, P. (2001). Yams of South-Central Africa. Kew Bulletin 56(2): 361-404.