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kew.org > Kew Science > Who we are and what we do > Departments > Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology

Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology

This department provides authoritative and wide-ranging expertise on the structure, development, evolution, classification and genomics of major plant and fungal groups.

Head, Comparative Plant and Fungal BiologyDr William (Bill) Baker

Assistant Head, Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology: tbc


Comparative research draws heavily on Kew’s wide-ranging collections of both living and preserved plants and fungi. By studying all levels of organisation, from whole organisms through morphological traits to molecular pathways, we construct fundamental predictive frameworks that explain how plants interact with their environment. 

Research foci of the Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology department include: 

  • Plant and fungal evolution, covering trait evolution, plant rarity, uniqueness, and extinction risk, with an emphasis on the consequences of global environmental change.
  • Comparative seed biology, encompassing biochemical, physiological, molecular and morphological studies focused on identification of the different mechanisms and traits important for longevity, optimal growth and restoration of seeds.
  • Specialist systematics of selected vascular plants, with particular focus on groups of economic, ecological and/or phylogenetic significance, such as legumes and grasses.
  • Specialist systematics of selected groups of fungi, especially those of economic importance, such as rust fungi, mycorrhizas and mushrooms. 

This research represents a vital evidence base for numerous external stakeholders, including scientific institutions, governments, agri-tech companies, and food, timber, and pharmaceutical industries.