Ilia J. Leitch

Senior Research Leader, Character Evolution


Ilia Leitch

I lead a team of Kew scientists investigating character evolution, based within Kew’s Department of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology. We conduct research aimed at identifying and understanding:

  • how different plant traits interact and evolve to generate the diversity of plant life
  • how key characters influence, or are influenced by, global environmental change

The particular characters currently under study range across all levels of plant organization from the genomic to the whole plant level.

My own research is focused on genomic characters (for example genome size, chromosome organization, DNA repeats). My goals are:

  • to understand the origin, evolution and biological significance of the immense diversity of genomic characters across land plants
  • to determine how these characters impact at the whole plant level to influence how, when, and where plants grow and respond to global change


Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BSc (Hons), Univ. Bristol, 1985
  • PhD, Univ. Bristol, 1990


Selected publications: 

Leitch, A. R., Leitch, I. J., Trimmer, M., Guignard, M. S. & Woodward, G. (2014). Impact of genomic diversity in river ecosystems. Trends in Plant Science: 19: 361-366. Available online

Dodsworth, S., Chase, M. W., Kelly, L. J., Leitch, I. J., Macas, J., Novák, P., Piednoël, M., Weiss-Schneeweiss, H. & Leitch, A. R. (2014). Genomic repeat abundances contain phylogenetic signal. Systematic Biology 64: 112-126.

Lomax, B. H., Hilton, J., Bateman, R. M., Upchurch, G. R., Lake, J. A., Leitch, I. J., Cromwell, A. & Knight, C. A. (2014). Reconstructing relative genome size of vascular plants through geological time. New Phytologist 201: 636-644. Available online

Suda, J., Meyerson, L. A., Leitch, I. J., & Pyšek, P. (2014). The hidden side of plant invasions: the role of genome size. New Phytologist: doi: 10.1111/nph.13107. Available online

Leitch, A. R., Leitch, I. J. (2012). Ecological and genetic factors linked to contrasting genome dynamics in seed plants. New Phytologist 194: 629-646. Available online