The secret of biodiversity and evolution in plants

Professor Simon Hiscock

patches of flora growing on mount etna a stratovolcano on sicily italy
This is a past event
Date and time
18 January 2023
6.30 pm
£10.00 (non-members)


Our planet has an enormous range of plant and animal species, biodiversity. Why is this? How have they evolved and how are they evolving now?

Natural crossbreeding, or hybridisation, between species is widespread in both plants and animals but it is especially common in plants where it is recognised as an important ‘creative’ force in evolution. In plants hybridisation is frequently associated with genetic changes which can lead to the abrupt formation of new species. In some cases, this combination of hybridisation and genetic changes creates complex patterns of variation causing challenges for scientists working on plant classification and the determination of a particular plant’s place in evolution. These processes are especially frequent in the daisy family (Asteraceae), the rose family (Rosaceae) and in grasses (Poaceae) leading to extreme challenges in classification for these particular plants.

Simon Hiscock will discuss how such plant diversity has arisen, using various examples of evolutionary processes from the rose family, where these changes are especially frequent. He will include a discussion of the famous Oxford Ragwort which has an intriguing evolutionary history and future.

professor simon hiscock

Professor Simon Hiscock

Simon Hiscock is Director of the Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum and Professor of Botany in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford. He was Director of the Bristol Botanic Garden from 2003 until 2016 during which time he led the relocation of the botanical collections to create a new 21st century botanic garden designed for teaching, research, conservation, and public engagement. Professor Hiscock is a member of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Science Advisory Group, and the NERC’s Peer Review College, in addition to other roles.

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