Skip to content

Dr Kerry L. Gibbons

Scientific Officer, Rubiaceae Research

Research Interests

I am a plant systematist/ taxonomist combining molecular phylogenetics with morphological data to further our understanding of the diversity, classification and evolutionary relationships of the Australasian flora. For my PhD (at the University of Sydney and the National Herbarium of New south Wales), I studied the systematics of Loganieae, an Australasian-Pacific tribe of Loganiaceae (Gentianales), focusing on Mitrasacme and the related genera Adelphacme, Phyllangium and Schizacme. Mitrasacme predominantly occurs in the Australian Monsoon Tropics. In contrast, Schizacme occurs in montane habitats in south-eastern Australia and New Zealand. From this work, I gained a keen interest in historical biogeography and biome assembly as processes that have helped to shape the megadiversity we see in the Australian flora.

Current Projects

The Australian Spermacoceae (Rubiaceae: Rubioideae)
Project Funding: Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) National Taxonomy Research Grant 2015 – 2018; Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust; Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens.
Collaborators: Marco Duretto (NSW), Steven Dessein (BR), Steve Dillon (PERTH)
Within this large project are several subprojects, including:
Do we really have any Oldenlandia in Australia?
This large molecular phylogenetic study has shown that Australian species currently placed in Oldenlandia L. are not closely related to that largely African genus. Two new endemic Australian genera are required to accommodate our species as well as new combinations in Scleromitrion and a new accepted name for Australia in Leptopetalum. In addition, some species currently placed in Hedyotis and Synaptantha in Australia are better placed in Exallage or Scleromitrion.
New species of Oldenlandia s. lat. from northern Western Australia.
In collaboration with Steven Dillon (PERTH).
Spermacoce s. lat. in Australia.
International studies have shown that Spermacoce s. lat. is not monophyletic, and research into generic classification in the group is ongoing. This is the first study to test the phylogenetic placement of a representative sample of native and weedy species in Australia.

Publication highlights

For a complete publication list, see my Google Scholar or ResearchGate profiles.

Struwe L, Gibbons KL, Conn BJ, Motley TJ (2018) Loganiaceae. Pp. 511–526 in: The families and genera of vascular plants, vol 15, Flowering Plants, Eudicots: Apiales, Gentianales (except Rubiaceae). Joachim W. Kadereit JW, Bittrich V (eds). Springer International Publishing, Cham, Switzerland.

Gibbons KL, Conn, BJ, Henwood MJ (2015) Status of names of Mitrasacme species occurring outside Australia. Telopea 18, 495–502.

Gibbons KL, Conn, BJ, Henwood MJ (2014) The Australasian genus Schizacme (Loganiaceae): new combinations and new species in the New Zealand flora. Telopea 17, 363–381.

Gibbons KL, Conn BJ, Henwood MJ (2013) Adelphacme (Loganiaceae), a new genus from south-western Australia. Telopea 15, 37–43.

Gibbons KL, Conn BJ, Henwood MJ (2012) Phylogenetic relationships in Loganieae (Loganiaceae) inferred from nuclear ribosomal and chloroplast DNA sequence data. Australian Systematic Botany 25, 331–340.

Featuring in a Branch Out podcast

New species of Oldenlandia from Kimberley region, WA. Image: Russell Barrett.

Spermacoce pogostoma var hispida. Image: Anne Terley.