William J. [Bill] Baker

Head of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology


I lead the Integrated Monography group, which comprises a team of specialist researchers studying the taxonomy, systematics and comparative biology of major plant families of economic and evolutionary significance.

My own research spans herbarium, laboratory, gardens and field to explore the diversity and evolution of tropical plants, primarily the palms, 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, 3) biogeography and biome evolution, and 4) speciation biology.

I contribute to science direction at Kew as Head of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology and member of the Senior Science Group.

Strategic Outputs 2020

Output leader for Plant and Fungal Trees of Life


Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BA (Hons), Univ. Oxford, 1993
  • MSc, Univ. Reading, 1994
  • PhD, Univ. Reading, 1997
  • Chair, IUCN-SSC Palm Specialist Group
  • Council Member, Systematics Association
  • Rock Garden Plant Comm., Royal Horticultural Society
  • Trustee, The Merlin Trust


Selected publications: 

Buerki, S., Baker, W. J. (2016). Collections-based research in the genomic era. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 117: 5–10.

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

Baker, W. J., Savolainen, V., Asmussen-Lange, C. B., Chase, M. W., Dransfield, J. F., Forest, F., Harley, M. M., Uhl, N. W. & Wilkinson, M. (2009). Complete generic-level phylogenetic analyses of palms (Arecaceae) with comparisons of supertree and supermatrix approaches. Systematic Biology58: 240–256. Available online

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

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