Our research examines the genetic basis for natural variation in plant form and how this diversity can be used.
Much of our work uses closely related Antirrhinum (snapdragon) species which have diverse forms and are adapted to different, often extreme environments (e.g., mountains or deserts). All species cancan hybridise with each other and with the genetic model, A. majus, allowing the research infrastructure that has been developed for A. majus to be used in identifying the genes that underlie species differences and to understand their adaptive importance. Traits of particular interest involve hairs (trichomes), which vary in density and structure between snapdragon species and, in some species, secrete novel protective compounds.
In collaboration with Steve Fry’s group, we also investigate cell wall enzymes from non-flowering plants and how they may be used to modify properties of crop species and their products.