Economic Botany Staff

See also: Staff publications

Contact details: Emails at Kew follow the format

Our address is: Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AE. Fax: +44 (0)20 8332 3717.

If you are uncertain which staff member to contact, please email us at:

Further information on Kew staff and projects (as at early 2009) can be found at the Kew Science Directory.

Prof. Monique Simmonds is Deputy Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory and head of Kew's Sustainable Uses group, which comprises the Centre for Economic Botany and the Biological Interactions section. Her research draws on a long-standing interest in plant-animal interactions, especially their role in the host selection behaviour of insects. Current research is on the economic uses of plants/fungi, in particular their potential as pharmaceutical and agrochemical leads, and as sources of sustainably-harvested products. This involves studying the chemistry of plants and fungi, the biological activities of extracts and isolated compounds, and using the new DNA based phylogenies to assist guide the selection of species. Prof. Simmonds is also interested in the development of chemical authentication methods to check the quality of plant-derived products being sold as medicines, cosmetics and functional foods. These projects often involve the development of benefit-sharing strategies with collaborators, supporting plant conservation in developing countries.

Frances Cook is concerned with wild collected UK trade imports. She identifies plant samples being considered by UK companies for inclusion in potpourri products and reports on toxicity and conservation issues. Related research focuses on links between potpourri species and the Indian herbal health care industry and the extent to which wild harvested species are involved. Having joined Kew in 1981, she worked on the SEPASAL project for several years, co-authoring with GE Wickens the FAO publication: Non-timber uses of selected arid zone trees and shrubs in Africa (1988). She was involved with the Economic Botany Bibliographic database and prepared the Economic Botany Data Collection Standard (1995); standard methods for recording use data remains an important study to date. She also oversees responses to enquiries received by the Sustainable Uses Group on uses or poisonous properties of plants.

Dr Elizabeth A. Dauncey is a botanical toxicologist and has worked on poisonous plants (and fungi) for the Medical Toxicology Information Services of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, since 1992 on joint activities with Kew. She studied botany at Durham University and then trained as a plant taxonomist at Reading University and Kew. Her revision of Dendrobium section Pedilonum, a group of orchids from S.E. Asia, was published in the Harvard Papers in Botany in 2003. Liz's main works on poisonous plants are:

Further information is available on our poisonous plants pages.

Steve Davis joined SEPASAL in 1993 and is Project Manager. He previously worked for IUCN, his publications including the three volumes of Centres of Plant Diversity: A Guide and Strategy for their Conservation (WWF-IUCN, 1994-1997). Recently he contributed to, and was Associate Editor of Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA) Precursor volume. Steve helped design the PC version of SEPASAL and co-supervised its conversion into an online database. He is co-ordinator for a major international collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and the Botanical Research Institute in Namibia, where SEPASAL "nodes" have been established. In 2001, Steve was one of three Kew staff nominated by the U.K. Government to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity Roster of Experts on Drylands.

Dr Olwen Grace is Research Assistant to Prof. Monique Simmonds. Olwen's research interests lie in the systematics of useful plants and their conservation, and in particular on succulent plants. She is a graduate of the University of Natal in South Africa, where she obtained a BSc Honours and MSc in Botany. She was recently awarded a PhD in Plant Science from the University of Pretoria, also in South Africa, for her studies on the systematics and ethnobotany of the genus Aloe.

Laura Hastings has worked in the Herbarium at Kew since 1983, first in taxonomy and then economic botany. Her responsibilities in CEB include the Potpourri Analysis Service and carrying out research into British ethnobotany, including the Ethnomedica project, and the taxonomy of the palm genus Rhapis.

Christine Leon began working at the Royal Botanic Gardens in 1980 on the threatened plants of Europe and Russia, focusing on developing IUCN's database and identifying species for inclusion in European conservation legislation such as the Council of Europe's Bern Convention and the EU Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats. In 1990 she took up a post, jointly funded by Kew and Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital Trust, London, to develop plant identification resources with a medical relevance, including a CD-ROM to enable poisonous plant identification by hospital emergency staff together and WHO poison information monographs. Christine continues to provide botanical advice to the hospital's Medical Toxicology Information Service focusing on the identification of herbal ingredients implicated in cases of adverse reaction.

Building on these hospital connections, in 1998 she established the Chinese Medicinal Plants Authentication and Conservation Centre (CMPACC), a joint activity between Kew and a new partner, the Institute of Medicinal Plant Development (IMPLAD), part of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing. Today, as project manager of CMPACC, Christine spends much time in China each year working with Chinese colleagues and undertaking extensive fieldwork to collect the plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine together with their commonly confused herbal substitutes. the resulting resource (approx. 4,000 provenanced medicines) is used to authenticate Chinese herbal medicines in international trade, support research into their quality control and train practitioners and conservation groups such as those involved with CITES implementation. Christine works closely with other colleagues in the Jodrell laboratory to support the development of lab-based authentication methods (chemical, DNA etc.) as well as promote activities to conserve and sustainably harvest the species at source. She is currently a member of the British Pharmacopoeia Expert Advisory Group for Herbal Medicines, two IUCN Specialist Groups (herbal medicines and Chinese plants) and the Consortium for the Globalisation of Chinese Medicine. In 2005 Christine was awarded a Visiting Professorship at her partner institute, IMPLAD, in Beijing.

Dr Mark Nesbitt came to the CEB in 1999. After studying agricultural botany at Reading University, Mark moved into archaeological science via a Master's degree in Archaeobotany at the Institute of Archaeology, London, followed by 14 years fieldwork in the Near East. At present, Mark works with the Economic Botany Collection, developing plans for its digitisation and researching its materia medica collections, especially of Cinchona. Mark's other responsibilities include co-ordinating the Kew component of the University of Kent M.Sc. in Ethnobotany, and looking after CEB's web pages and the internship programme. From 2004-2005 he was project manager for Plant Cultures, drawing on his interests in plant history and exchange. In his spare time he continues to publish in archaeobotany, particularly on agricultural origins and all aspects of wheat evolution and history. Mark was a Council Member of the Society for Economic Botany (2005-2007) and is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University of Kent at Canterbury. In 2010 Mark changed department to the Herbarium at Kew, but maintains close links with the Sustainable Uses Group.

Jill Turner originally joined CEB in 1998 to work on a review of potentially harmful plants for the Horticultural Trades Association. She now co-ordinates responses to the 600 or so enquiries received annually by the Sustainable Uses Group that relate to the uses of plants or their poisonous properties, her own special interest being poisonous plants and botanical jewellery. Jill has recently started transcribing the hand written records of donations to the Economic Botany Collection database. Records date from 1847 and are sometimes difficult to decipher. This is making the donor names more accessible and providing a useful research tool.

CEB alumni
Hew Prendergast is now Superintendent of Ashdown Forest, in East Sussex. Helen Sanderson has moved to an outreach post at St. Ann's Allotments in Nottingham. Julia Steele is now collections manager at the Society of Antiquaries. Georgina Pearman works at the Eden project. Rory McBurney is undertaking a MRC/ESRC-funded PhD in ethnobotany and nutrition at the University of Kent. Naomi Rumball is in Hastings.