Dr Tim Upson
Curator and Deputy Director of Cambridge University Botanic Garden
My interest is in plant diversity, reflected in my position as Curator of the University Botanic Garden and my research in plant systematics and conservation.
Curating and developing a plant collection of over 8000 species enjoyed by over 200,000 visitors a year raises constant questions of what to grow both now and in the future. Gardens are dynamic and we look to innovate displays and plantings to reflect current issues in Plant Sciences that are attractive to a wide audience and sustainable, particularly in the light of likely climate change.
Research interests in plant systematics focus on the Lamiaceae and the aromatic genera Lavandula and Rosmarinus, including their horticultural taxonomy. Knowledge from these monographic works provides a basis to understand patterns of evolution, distributions and essential oil variation.
Systematics of Lavandula & Rosmarinus
Based on recent monographic works the aim is to understand patterns of diversity and speciation in the Canary Island and European species of Lavandula and search for populations with interesting essential oil profiles and potential new uses.
Developing plant collections
An underlying philosophy and challenge in developing new displays is to ensure they are attractive to a wide audience yet carry an underlying message relating to plant science. We also aim to ensure they are sustainable, drought tolerant and have wildlife value.
Working with partners we are currently investigating the ex-situ conservation of native plants from eastern England - germination protocols for fen orchid (Liparis loeselii), dormancy breaking in fen violet (Viola persicifolia) and the potential reintroduction of fen ragwort (Senecio paludosus).
Cultivated plant conservation
The recent Aichi Biodiversity Target 13 recognises the value of cultivated plants in maintaining the unique gene pool of accumulated variation. In association with partners we have helped develop red listing protocols with the initial aim of identifying those threatened cultivated plants in the UK.