Dr Olwen M Grace

Head of Accelerated Taxonomy


Accelerated Taxonomy


Integrated Monography


Taxonomy, systematics, tree of life, desert plants, succulence, sustainable uses, people and plants

I am the lead scientist for Accelerated Taxonomy, one of Kew's five scientific priorities. We are pushing the frontiers of taxonomic research to accelerate the characterisation and identification of species in near real-time.

My own research programme is concerned with the diversity and value of desert plants in a changing world. We study global patterns in succulent plant diversity and the evolutionary processes underlying their extraordinary adaptations and ecological success, using the charismatic genus Aloe (Asphodelaceae) as a model system.

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 collections of living plants in botanic gardens.

  • BSc (Hons), University Natal, 1999
  • MSc, University Natal, 2002
  • PhD University of Pretoria, 2009
  • Council Member, Society for Economic Botany
  • Editorial boards of South African Journal of Botany and Frontiers in Plant Science

Fradera-Soler, M., Grace, O.M., Jørgensen, B. & Mravec, J. (2022)

Elastic and collapsible: current understanding of cell walls in succulent plants.

Journal of Experimental Botany 

Lu, M., Fradera-Soler, M., Forest, F., Barraclough, T.G & Grace, O.M. (2021)

Evidence linking life form to a major shift in diversification rate in Crassula.

American Journal of Botany 109: 272-290.

Woudstra, Y., Viruel, J., Fritzsche, M., Bleazard, T., Mate, R., Howard, C., Rønsted, N. & Grace, O.M. (2021)

A customised target capture sequencing tool for molecular identification of Aloe vera and relatives.

Scientific Reports 11: 24347.

Grace, O.M., Pérez-Escobar, O.A., Lucas, E., Vorontsova, M., Lewis, G.P., Walker, B., Lohmann, L.J., Knapp, S., et al. (2021)

Botanical monography in the Anthropocene.

Trends in Plant Science 26: 433-441.

 Malakasi, P., Bellot, S., Dee, R. & Grace, O.M. (2019)

Museomics clarifies the classification of Aloidendron (Asphodelaceae), the iconic African tree aloes.

Frontiers in Plant Science 10:1227.

Grace, O.M. (2019)

Succulent plant diversity as natural capital.

Plants People Planet 1:336–345.

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