Alexandra Wortley

China Programme Coordinator


Research interests

I have a background in biodiversity research, plant systematics, evolution and palynology. I help to coordinate RBGE’s work in China and to teach phylogenetics on the MSc in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants. My current research falls into two main areas:

  1. Evolution of angiosperm pollen. With Prof. Wang Hong of Kunming Institute of Botany, I am leading a research programme to examine the diversity and evolution of pollen grains throughout the flowering plants. We use the most up-to date molecular phylogenies and detailed palynological analyses to explore the changes in character state underlying key clades and events in the angiosperm tree of life.
  2. Palaeobotany and palaeoecology of the Yulong Xue Shan. The Yulong Xue Shan (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain), Yunnan, China, is the site of RBGE’s international field station in an area of global significance for plant diversity (the Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot). In collaboration with Dr. Yao Yi-feng of the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, I am using pollen grains extracted from sediment cores to infer Quaternary vegetation patterns, and from that, past climate and anthropogenic inferences. This research provides a historical background and baseline for RBGE’s contemporary studies of the mountain’s flora, and an insight into the possible trajectory for this vegetation under future climatic changes.



Dong, L.-N., Wang, H., Wortley, A.H., Li, D.-Z. & Lu, L. 2015. Fruit and seed morphology in some representative genera of tribe Rhinantheae sensu lato (Orobanchaceae) and related taxa. Plant Systematics and Evolution 301: 479-500.

Luo, Y., Lu, L., Wortley, A.H., Li, D.-Z., Wang, H. & Blackmore, S. 2015. Evolution of Angiosperm Pollen. 3. Monocots 1. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 101: 406-455

Lu, L., Wortley, A.H., Li, D.-Z., Wang, H. & Blackmore, S. 2015. Evolution of angiosperm pollen. 2. Basal angiosperms. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 100: 227-279.

Wortley, A.H. & Harris, D.J. 2015. Sangha Trees: an identification and training guide to the trees of the northern Republic of Congo. In: Watson, M.F. & Lyal, C. Floras and Faunas Serving Biodiversity Research. Systematics Association Proceedings Volume.

Wortley, A.H., Wang, H., Lu, L., Li, D.-Z. & Blackmore, S. 2015. Evolution of angiosperm pollen. 1. Introduction Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 100: 177-226.

Yao, Y.-F., Song, X.-Y., Wortley, A.H., Blackmore, S. & Li, C.-S. 2015. A 22 570-year record of vegetational and climatic change from Wenhai Lake in the Hengduan Mountains biodiversity hotspot, Yunnan, Southwest China. Biogeosciences 12: 1525—1535. doi:10.5194/bg-12-1525-2015.


Blackmore, S., Hong, D.-Y., Raven, P. & Wortley, A.H. 2013/2015. Introduction. In: Hong, D.-Y. & Blackmore, S. (eds), The Plants of China. Beijing: Science Press and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dong, L.-N., Wang, H., Wortley, A.H. & Li, D.-Z. 2013. Phylogenetic relationships in the Pterygiella complex (Orobanchaceae) inferred from molecular and morphological evidence. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 171(3): 491-507.


Blackmore, S., Chin, C.-S., Chong Seng, L., Christie, F., Inches, F., Putri, W.U., Watherston, N. & Wortley, A.H. 2012. Observations on the morphology, pollination and cultivation of coco-de-mer (Lodoicea maldivica (J.F.Gmel.) Pers., Palmae). Journal of Botany 687832; doi:10.1155/2012/687832.

Blackmore, S., Takahashi, M., Uehara, K. & Wortley, A.H. 2012. Development of megaspores and microspores in Isoetes japonica A. Br. (Lycopodiophyta: Isoetaceae). Grana 51(2): 84-96.

Mark, P.J.L., Wortley, A.H. & Furness, C.A. 2012 Not a shrinking violet: pollen morphology of Violaceae (Malpighiales). Grana 51(3): 181-193.

Song, X.-Y., Yao, Y.-F., Wortley, A.H., Paudayal, K.N., Li, C.-S. & Blackmore, S. 2012. Holocene vegetation and climate history at Haligu on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yunnan, SW China. Climatic Change. doi: DOI 10.1007/s10584-011 0364-6

Wortley, A.H. 2012. Phylogeny: the science and underlying data. Ubiquity: the Journal of Pervasive Media 1(1): 104-120.

Wortley, A.H., Blackmore, S., Chissoe, W.F. & Skvarla, J.J. 2012. Recent advances in Compositae (Asteraceae) palynology, with emphasis on previously unstudied and umplaced taxa. Grana 51(2): 158-179.


Dhetchuvi, J.-B., Wortley, A.H. & Harris, D.J. 2011. A new species of Aframomum (Zingiberaceae) from Central Africa. Phytotaxa 28: 31-34 (

Dong, L.-N., Wortley, A.H., Wang, H., Li, De.-Z. & Lu, L. 2011. The efficiency of DNA barcodes for species delimitation: a case in Pterygiella Oliv. (Orobanchaceae). Journal of Systematics and Evolution 49(2): 189-202. doi: 10.1111/j.1759 6831.2011.00124.x

Harris, D.J., Moutsamboté, J.-M., Kami, E., Florence, J., Bridgewater, S.G.M. & Wortley, A.H. 2011. An Introduction to the Trees from the North of the Republic of Congo. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK [English and French editions].

Wortley, A.H. 2011. Ten years of the Lijiang Project. The Botanics 47: 4-6 (available at


Bebber, D.P., Carine, M.A., Wood, J.R.I., Wortley, A.H., Harris, D.J., Prance, G.T., Davidse, G., Paige., J., Pennington, T.D., Robson, N.K. & Scotland, R.W. 2010. Herbaria are the major frontier for species discovery. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America 107(51): 22169-22171 (

Blackmore, S. & Wortley, A.H. 2010. Ontogeny and Systematics revisited: developmental models and model organisms. In: Williams, D.M. & Knapp, S. (eds). Beyond Cladistics. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Blackmore, S., Wortley, A.H., Skvarla, J.J., Gabarayeva, N.I. & Rowley, J.R. 2010. Developmental origins of structural diversity in pollen walls of Compositae. Plant Systematics and Evolution 284: 17-32 (


Blackmore, S., Wortley, A.H., Skvarla, J.J. & Robinson, H. 2009. Evolution of pollen in the Compositae. Pp. 101-130 in: Funk, V.A., Susanna, A., Stuessy, T. & Bayer, R. (eds.). Systematics, Evolution and Biogeography of the Compositae. IAPT, Vienna, Austria.

Harris, D.J. & Wortley, A.H. 2009. Liste des Arbres du Parc National de Nouabalé-Ndoki, République du Congo (

Harris, D.J. & Wortley, A.H. 2009. Liste des Arbres de l’UFA de Kabo, République du Congo (

Wang, H., Wortley, A.H. & Blackmore, S. 2009. Pollen morphology of Crepidinae and Lactucinae (Asteraceae: Cichorieae) and its systematic significance. Grana 48: 160-178 (

Wortley, A.H., Blackmore, S. & Skvarla, J.J. 2009. Bibliography of pollen literature in the Compositae. Pp. 807-867 in: Funk, V.A., Susanna, A., Stuessy, T. & Bayer, R. (eds.). Systematics, Evolution and Biogeography of the Compositae. IAPT, Vienna, Austria.


Evans, K.M., Wortley, A.H., Simpson, G.E., Chepurnov, V.A. & Mann, D.G. 2008. A molecular systematic approach to explore the nature of cryptic diversity within the model species complex Sellaphora pupula agg. (Bacillariophyta). New Phycologist 44: 215-231 (

Harris, D.J. and Wortley, A.H. 2008. Sangha Trees: an Illustrated Identification Manual. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.

Wortley, A.H., Funk, V.F., Robinson, H., Skvarla, J.J. & Blackmore, S. 2008. Using pollen morphology to investigate rogue genera in Compositae (Asteraceae). Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 146: 169-181 (http://si

Wortley, A.H., Funk, V.A. & Skvarla, J.J. 2008. Pollen and the evolution of Arctotideae. The Botanical Review 74: 438-466 (


Blackmore, S., Wortley, A.H., Skvarla, J.J. & Rowley, J.R. 2007. Pollen wall development in flowering plants. New Phytologist 174: 483-498 (

Evans, K.M., Wortley, A.H. & Mann, D.G. 2007. An assessment of potential “bar-code” genes (cox1, rbcL, 18S and ITS rDNA) to aid the identification of diatoms (Bacillariophyta). Protist 158: 349-364.

Harris, D.J. & Wortley, A.H. 2007. Draft Checklist of the Trees of the Northern Republic of Congo (

Wortley, A.H., Harris, D.J. & Scotland, R.W. 2007. On the taxonomy and phylogenetic position of Thomandersia. Systematic Botany 32: 415-444 (


Harris, D.J. & Wortley, A.H. 2006. A new species of Drypetes (Putranjivaceae) from the Central African Republic. Edinburgh Journal of Botany 63: 253-256.

Harris, D.J. & Wortley, A.H. 2006. A new species of Eriocoelum (Sapindaceae) from the Central African Republic. Kew Bulletin 61: 277-280 (

Wortley, A.H. & Scotland, R.W. 2006. Determining the potential utility of datasets for phylogeny reconstruction. Taxon 55: 431-442 (

Wortley, A.H. & Scotland, R.W. 2006. The effect of combining molecular and morphological data in published phylogenetic analyses. Systematic Biology 55: 677-685 (


Wortley, A.H., Harris, D.J., Rudall, P.J. & Scotland, R.W. 2005. How much data are needed to resolve a difficult phylogeny? Case study in Lamiales. Systematic Biology 54: 697-709 (

Wortley, A.H., Rudall, P.J. & Scotland, R.W. 2005. Floral anatomy of Thomandersia (Lamiales), with particular reference to the nature of the retinaculum and extranuptial nectaries. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 149: 469-482 (

Wortley, A.H. & Wilkie, P. 2005. Thematic Review of Darwin Initiative’s Contribution to the Global Taxonomy Initiative. Defra/ECTF (


Wortley, A.H. & Scotland, R.W. 2004. Synonymy, sampling and seed plant numbers. Taxon 53: 478-480 (


Scotland, R.W., Hughes, C.E., Bailey, C.D. & Wortley, A.H. 2003. The big machine and the much-maligned taxonomist. Biodiversity and Systematics 1: 139-143 (

Scotland, R.W. & Wortley, A.H. 2003. How many species of seed plants are there? Taxon 52: 101-104 (


Wortley, A.H., Bennett, J.R. & Scotland, R.W. 2002. Taxonomy and phylogeny reconstruction: two distinct research agendas in systematics. Edinburgh Journal of Botany 59: 335-349 (

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Alexandra Wortley

 Alexandra Wortley

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