Plant and Fungal Tree of Life

Plant and Fungal Trees of Life

There are currently gaps in our knowledge of the evolutionary relationships between species. Kew aims to fill these gaps by completing the Plant and Fungal Trees of Life for all genera by 2020.

Project information

Output Leader: William (Bill) Baker

Funded by: Calleva Foundation, Sackler Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation 

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

Evolutionary trees provide a powerful tool 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. 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 use our collections to produce genome-scale DNA data for a representative of each genus of plant and fungus using high-throughput sequencing technologies. We will also continue to investigate species-level relationships for groups of economic, ecological and evolutionary importance in which we hold particular expertise. 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 our collections.