Contact us at:
Erik Smets
Erik Smets
Director, Hortus Botanicus, Leiden
Director of the National Herbarium of the Nederlands
Head of the Laboratory of Plant Systematics, Leuven

Research Interests:

My major research interests are in the field of phylogeny, morphology and anatomy of flowering plants. I am particularly interested in the evolution of floral nectaries, and in the floral development, wood anatomy and pollen evolution of asterids.

In the past years my laboratory in Leuven has invested in evolutionary development as a new complementary research topic. Because our extensive previous expertise with floral ontogeny, flower evo-devo was a complementary research discipline for which we had high expectations. Our focus in evo-devo is on the balsaminoid Ericales, of which Balsaminaceae, Marcgraviaceae, Tetrameristaceae and Pellicieraceae are the member families. To come to a better understanding of the evolutionary history of this enigmatic clade, we started morphological work, DNA sequence analysis and evo-devo studies. Through an excellent collaboration with Prof. Theissen (F.S.U. Jena, Germany), we succeeded in obtaining data that do allow us to better understand the evolution of the clade. Because this line of research has been rewarding, we are now extending the scope of our study to other basal asterid families. In addition, we are assessing the phylogenetic utility of the cloned genes for family level phylogeny reconstruction (e.g. Balsaminaceae and Ebenaceae).

The research programme of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands fully complies with the priorities recognised by the international community (Diversitas, Systematics Agenda 2000, Global Taxonomy Initiative of the Convention of Biological Diversity) and the National Research School Biodiversity and addresses the following major themes:

1.Taxonomy of important groups of plants and macrofungi (for regional and world monographs, regional floras, etc.)
2.Biodiversity assessments (based on herbarium data, field inventories, and monitoring of floristic change)
3.Phylogeny and biogeography (using morphological, anatomical and molecular attributes and cladistic analysis)
4.Speciation and population differentiation
5.Management and dissemination of taxic biodiversity information (in user-friendly electronic form and hard copy, and fully exploiting the wealth of information linked with collections, and scattered in the specialized literature)