About this site
Grant no's 279981, 279984 & 279970. Period, Nov./Dec. 2010 to Oct./Nov. 2013.
Dr Paul Wilkin
My “first love” among the monocots was Bromeliaceae, the pineapple family. The most spectacular bromeliad has to be Puya raimondii or queen of the Andes, a high elevation giant reaching over 10 m tall in flower. We had one in the old Alpine House at Kew and the gardener in charge of the house always wanted to see it bloom. Unfortunately it takes several decades to do so (especially in London) and he retired before it got close to flowering. However, my favourite is still the first one I grew as a student: Billbergia nutans, queen’s tears or the friendship plant. It has a very exotic appearance, with gaudy red or pink bracts on its pendent inflorescence and green petals with blue margins. In its natural habitat from southern Brazil to Northern Argentina it is an epiphyte. Like many broms, its roots just hold it in place on the tree and it absorbs much of its nutrition through tiny ash-white scales on its dark green leaves. Its epiphytic habit and relatively southerly distribution mean that it is very tough, making it an excellent houseplant which is also surprisingly hardy outdoors in temperate areas. Best of all, it forms young plants as it grows (called offsets or pups) so you can give it away to your friends (hence one of the vernacular names). So it’s a community plant which links people together, like eTaxonomy.
I am a plant systematist at RBG, Kew with interests across the diversity of the lilioid monocots (lilies and their relatives) including yams (Dioscorea), dragon trees and mother-in-law’s tongues (Dracaena & Sanseviera) and members of the iris (Iridaceae), daffodil (Amaryllidaceae) and lily (Liliaceae) families. I am the principal investigator on the eMonocot project with my primary role being in content development, although I am developing an interest in outreach activities.