Plant Sciences Research Seminar - Professor Robert Scotland

1 December


Large Lecture Theatre

Professor Robert Scotland, Oxford

What’s the story morning glory: An integrated Monograph of Ipomoea

Knowledge of tropical plant diversity is rudimentary and provisional for many species-rich groups that have not been taxonomically examined across their entire distribution. This is reflected in half the world’s natural history collections having an incorrect name and 90% of tropical plants having been collected so few times they are essentially invisible to modern modelling and conservation tools. This state of affairs has implications for almost every aspect of environmental science from conservation to food security. We have been monographing Ipomoea, a genus of some 900 species that is poorly known. We have been integrating molecular sequence data and traditional taxonomy in a novel and exciting way. The talk will describe the enormous increase in knowledge that has been gained during the study. I will discuss evidence from Ipomoea that clearly demonstrates long distance dispersal as an explanation for disjunct patterns of distribution in contrast to human mediated transport of sweet potato to Polynesia. The scale of our results relative to 1. taxonomy, 2. discovering two major evolutionary radiations, 3. crop origins and wild relatives demonstrate that our ability to understand, characterise and conserve fragile tropical environments is greatly enhanced by taxonomic botany.

  • Goodwin, Z.A., Harris, D.J., Filer, D., Wood, J.R.I. & R.W. Scotland. 2015. Widespread mistaken identity in tropical plant collections. Current Biology 25(22): 1066-1067.
  • Wood, J.R.I., Carine, M.A., Harris, D.J., Wilkin, P., Williams, B.R.M. & R.W. Scotland. 2015. Ipomoea (Convolvulaceae) in Bolivia. Kew Bulletin 70(31): 1-124. 
  • Wood, J.R.I., Williams, B.R.M., Mitchell, T.C., Carine, M.A., Harris, D.J. & R.W. Scotland. 2015. A foundation monograph of Convolvulus. Phytokeys 51: 1-282



Ipomoea lactifera Wood & Scotland, new species from Bolivia closely related to the sweet potato