Dr Olwen M Grace

Senior Research Leader


Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology


Integrated Monography


I study the evolution of desert plants and their useful properties in regions where climate change is likely to influence their future value.

Biography Plus

My research programme is concerned with the diversity and value 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, 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.

Qualifications and appointments Plus
  • 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
  • Linnean Society of London, Vice-President
Selected publications Plus

Melin, A., Grace, O.M., Duckworth, G.D., Donaldson, J.S., Milne-Gulland, E.J. (2017)

Assessing the social and ecological characteristics of an expanding natural resource industry: Aloe harvesting in South Africa

Economic Botany 71: 58-74. doi.org/10.1007/s12231-017-9372-4

Ernst, M., Saslis-Lagoudakis, C.H., Grace, O.M., Nilsson, N., Simonsen, H.T., Rønsted, N. (2016)

From ethnomedicine to phylogenetic prediction in drug discovery in the cosmopolitan genus Euphorbia: Suggestions for a new classification system of diseases

Scientific Reports 6: 30531 doi:10.2038/srep30531

Grace, O.M., Buerki, S., Symonds, M.R.E., Forest, F., van Wyk, A.E., Smith, G.F., Klopper, R.R., Bjora, C. S., Neale, S., Demissew, S., Simmonds, M.S.J., Rønsted, 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., 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., Dzajic, A., Jager, A.K., Nyberg, N., Onder, A. & Rønsted, N. (2013)

Monosaccharide composition of succulent leaf tissue in Aloe

Phytochemistry 93: 79–87

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Olwen M. Grace




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Olwen M. Grace