Plant and Fungal Trees of Life

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

Project summary Plus

Kew is committed to completing the Plant and Fungal Trees of Life by generating and compiling high throughput sequencing data for one representative of all 14,000 flowering plant genera and all 8,200 fungal genera by 2020.


Evolutionary trees are powerful tools for prediction, species discovery, monitoring and conservation. To better understand how the world’s plants and fungi are related to each other and how they have evolved, we aim to complete the Plant and Fungal Trees of Life (PAFTOL). Through comparative analysis of DNA sequence data, the backbones of these Trees of Life are already relatively well understood, and many components have been studied in great detail. However, DNA data are still lacking for many genera and the vast majority of species of plants and fungi, preventing their accurate placement within this evolutionary framework.


To complete the Plant and Fungal Trees of Life for all genera, we will utilise Kew’s collections to produce genome-scale DNA data for a representative of each genus of plant and fungus using high-throughput sequencing technologies. This comprehensive investigation of evolutionary relationships will provide a unifying framework for comparative plant and fungal research, greatly accelerating the discovery of new taxa, particularly in less well-known groups, as well as facilitating the exploration of properties and uses. The project is an essential step towards the compilation of genomic data for all known species using Kew’s collections.

Project team Plus
Outputs Plus

Genomic data for one representative of all 14,000 flowering plant genera.

Geomic data for one representative of all 8,200 fungal genera.

The PAFTOL Explorer, a novel web tool providing access to the latest versions of the trees of life, and sequence data.

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.

Engagement and dialogue around PAFTOL's research and approaches with both the public and scientific communities.

Funded by Plus
  • Calleva Foundation
  • Sackler Trust
Selected publications Plus

Eiserhardt, W.L., Antonelli, A., Bennett, D.J., Botigué, L.R., Burleigh, J.G., Dodsworth, S., Enquist, B.J., Forest, F., Kim, J.T., Kozlov, A.M., Leitch, I.J., Maitner, B.S., Mirarab, S., Piel, W.H., Pérez‐Escobar, O.A., Pokorny, L., Rahbek, C., Sandel, B., Smith, S.A., Stamatakis, A., Vos, R.A., Warnow, T., & Baker, W.J. (2018). A roadmap for global synthesis of the plant tree of life. American Journal of Botany 105: 614-622. Available online

Johnson, M., Pokorny, L., Dodsworth, S., Botigue, L.R., Cowan, R.S., Devault, A., Eiserhardt, W.L., Epitawalage, N., Forest, F., Kim, J.T., Leebens-Mack, J.H.H., Leitch, I.J., Maurin, O., Soltis, D.E., Soltis, P.S., Wong, G.K., Baker, W.J., & Wickett, N. (2018). A Universal Probe Set for Targetted Sequencing of 353 Nuclear Genes from Any Flowering Plant Designed Using k-medoids Clustering. bioRxiv 361618. Available online

Lewin, H.A., Robinson, G.E.,  Kress, W.J., Baker, W.J., Coddington, J., Crandall, K.A., Durbin, R., Edwards, S.V., Forest, F., Gilbert, M.T.P., Goldstein, M.M., Grigoriev, I.V., Hackett, K.J., Haussler, D., Jarvis, E.D., Johnson, W.E., Patrinos, A., Richards, S., Castilla-Rubio, J.C., van Sluys, M-A., Soltis, P.S., Xu, X., Yang, H. & Zhang,G. (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. Available online

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Further information Plus