Plant and Fungal Trees of Life (PAFTOL)

Discovering and disseminating the evolutionary history of all plant and fungal genera.

Discovering and disseminating the evolutionary history of all plant and fungal genera

Evolutionary trees are powerful tools for prediction, species discovery, monitoring and conservation. They help us understand how the world’s plants and fungi are related to each other and how they have evolved. Through comparative analysis of DNA sequence data, the backbone of the tree of life is already relatively well understood, and many components have been studied in great detail. However, data are still lacking for many genera and the majority of species of plants and fungi, preventing their accurate placement within this evolutionary framework. Exploiting Kew’s unrivalled collections, the Plant and Fungal Trees of Life project (PAFTOL) is now completing the tree, by generating and compiling high throughput DNA sequence data for one representative of all 14,000 flowering plant genera and all 8,200 fungal genera by 2020.

About PAFTOL Plus

Expected outputs

  • Genomic data for one representative of all 14,000 flowering plant genera.
  • Genomic data for one representative of all 8,200 fungal genera.
  • Creation of the Angiosperm353 probe kit, a universal toolkit for targeted sequencing of 353 genes from any flowering plant.
  • The publication of high impact science papers of relevance to the broadest scientific audience.
  • Up-to-date tree of life (and all underpinning data) made publicly available online.
  • Engagement and dialogue around PAFTOL's research and approaches with both the public and scientific communities.

Funded by 

  • The Calleva Foundation
  • The Sackler Trust
  • Garfield Weston
PAFTOL plants staff Plus
Principal investigators

Dr William Baker

Dr Félix Forest

Dr Ilia Leitch

Dr Paul Kersey


Project staff

Data production team

Dr Olivier Maurin

Dr Jim Clarkson

Dr Alexandre Zuntini 

Grace Brewer

Robyn Cowan

Dr Wolf Eiserhardt

Data analysis team

Dr Jan Kim

Dr Paul Bailey

Project manager

Vanessa Barber

Project alumni

Dr Lisa Pokorny

Dr Sidonie Bellot

Dr Steven Dodsworth

Dr Laura Botigue

Data and methods Plus


Sampling methods
PAFTOL’s samples come from fresh tissue from the living collections at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, herbaria material sampled from Kew's Herbarium and other herbaria around the world, and existing DNA extractions and tissue samples from Kew's DNA and Tissue bank.

For step-by-step instructions on how to collect fresh tissue samples download PAFTOL's sampling guide.

Laboratory methods 
Details of PAFTOL’s lab methods, covering DNA extraction, sonication, library preparation, evaluation and quantification, hybridisation to the Angiosperms353 probe set, and final pooling, can be found in Johnson,M.G., Pokorny, L., Dodsworth, S. et al. (2018).

Angiosperms353 probe set
The Angiosperms353 probe set has been demonstrated to enrich hundreds of putatively single-copy protein-coding genes, identified by the One Thousand Plant Transcriptomes Initiative, across a broad range of flowering plants. Probes were designed from 353 loci, each with 5-15 representative sequences from across all angiosperms which were selected using a novel “k-medoids clustering approach” to maximize taxonomic breadth of the design (Johnson,M.G., Pokorny, L., Dodsworth, S. et al. 2018)

The probe set is broadly applicable for phylogenetic research across all flowering plants, and is available from Arbor Biosciences at a low per-reaction cost. 

Computational methods
PAFTOL aims to share its data as openly and as early as possible. All data that are generated with support from PAFTOL project resources (funding, staff time, etc.) will be freely and immediately shared among its members and is available upon request. Data generated by the PAFTOL project will be made publicly available no later than six months after production. 

GitHub: “HybSeq Target Capture of 353 Protein Coding Genes in Any Angiosperm

Fungal methods
We are currently developing our methods for fungi.

Sub-projects and collaborations Plus
Publications and reports Plus

Eiserhardt, W.L., Antonelli, A., Bennett, D.J., et al. (2018).

A roadmap for global synthesis of the plant tree of life.

American Journal of Botany 105: 614-622.

Lewin, H.A., Robinson, G.E., Kress, W.J., et al. (2018).

Earth BioGenome Project: Sequencing life for the future of life. 

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115: 4325-4333.

Updates Plus

PAFTOL actively seeks opportunities to collaborate and we encourage anyone who would like to work with us to email