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Systematics and Conservation Genetics of Asparagales - COMPLETED

Studies of phylogenetic systematics and genetics of Asparagales (the asparagoid lilies) are an ongoing focus of monocot work at Kew.

Studies of phylogenetic systematics and genetics of Asparagales (the asparagoid lilies) are an ongoing focus of monocot work at Kew.

The order Asparagales was first established in its current form by Dahlgren and his co-workers (Dahlgren, Clifford and Yeo 1985: The families of the monocotyledons), partly based on the shared presence of black, phytomelaniferous seeds. The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification (APG, 1998; APG II, 2003; APG III, 2009) clarified which families belong to this order and their inter-relationships. The option to recognise the smaller 'bracketed' families included in APG II was not included in APG III, and an associated paper provided a subfamilial classification for Amaryllidaceae s.l., Asparagaceae s.l. and Xathorrhoeaceae s.l. (Chase, Reveal and Fay, 2009). Much of the research on which the APG classification was based was carried out at Kew. Following publication of the proceedings of the first international conference on monocots, “Monocotyledons: systematics and evolution” (edited by Rudall, Cribb, Cutler and Humphries published by RBG Kew in 1995), many peer-reviewed papers on Asparagales have been produced. These include both molecular and morphological phylogenetic analyses, covering both the entire order and individual families (e.g. Amaryllidaceae, Iridaceae, Xanthorrhoeaceae, Hypoxidaceae). They provide a phylogenetic framework for studies of character evolution (including flower, pollen and genome evolution) within Asparagales.

Investigations continue in collaboration with groups in the USA, Europe, Africa and Asia, with the aim of obtaining a phylogenetic tree for Asparagales with stronger support and resolve relationships within several groups. Current work includes phylogenetic, biogeographical and/or speciation studies in Amaryllidaceae s.l. , Asparagaceae s.l., Iridaceae, Tecophilaeaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae. Other work contributes treatments of dracaenoids (Asparagaceae) to the Flora of Thailand, Flora Malesiana, Flore du Gabon/Flore du Cameroun, and to the development of a 'Scratchpad' taxonomic website on dracaenoids (

Project partners and collaborators

University of Adelaide
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
University of Copenhagen
National Museums of Kenya
Kyungwon University
University of Oslo
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan
South Africa
University of Cape Town
South African National Biodiversity Institute
University of Alicante
University of Neuchatel
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
Imperial, University of London
Queen Mary, University of London
NHM Botany
Columbia University
Cornell University
Missouri Botanical Garden
University of Hawaii

Project funders

Leverhulme Trust
National Geographic Society