Dr William J Baker

Head of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology


Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology


Fundamental plant diversity research, including taxonomy, systematics, phylogenetics, evolution and biogeography, with a specialism in palms

Biography Plus

I lead Kew’s Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology Department, which comprises around 50 researchers (plus students and associates) specialising in comparative research on specific lineages and traits to understand the principles that generate and drive plant and fungal diversity. My research spans herbarium, laboratory, gardens and field to explore the diversity and evolution of plants, especially the palm family, an iconic angiosperm family of immense ecological and economic importance. My current interests include 1) fundamental biodiversity research, especially taxonomy, informatics and conservation, 2) phylogenetics applied to systematic and comparative questions and 3) biogeography and rainforest biome evolution. I lead Kew’s Plant and Fungal Trees of Life (PAFTOL) programme, which aims to gather and analyse genomic data for at least one species from each genus of plants and fungi to produce the most extensive and robust tree of life for these groups yet generated.

Strategic Outputs 2020

Output leader for Plant and Fungal Trees of Life

Qualifications and appointments Plus
  • BA (Hons), Univ. Oxford, 1993
  • MSc, Univ. Reading, 1994
  • PhD, Univ. Reading, 1997
  • Chair, IUCN SSC Palm Specialist Group
Selected publications Plus

Baker, W.J. & J. Dransfield. (2017)

More new rattans from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (Calamus, Arecaceae)

Phytotaxa 305: 61–86

Baker, W. J. and Couvreur, T. L. P. (2013)

Global biogeography and diversification of palms sheds light on the evolution of tropical lineages. II. Diversification history and origin of regional assemblages

Journal of Biogeography 40: 286–298 Available online

Couvreur, T. L. P., Forest, F., Baker, W. J. (2011)

Origin and global diversification patterns of tropical rain forests: inferences from a complete genus-level phylogeny of palms

BMC Biology 9: 44. Available online

Eiserhardt, W.L., T.L.P Couvreur & W.J. Baker. (2017)

Plant phylogeny as a window on the evolution of hyperdiversity in the tropical rainforest biome

New Phytologist 214: 1408–1422

Dransfield, J., Uhl, N. W., Asmussen, C. B., Baker, W. J., Harley, M. M. & Lewis, C. E. (2008)

Genera Palmarum – the evolution and classification of palms

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 732 pages Buy from Kew books

Projects Plus
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William John Baker

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William J. Baker