Thomas J. Givnish


Henry Allan Gleason Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies

Ph.D. (1976) Princeton University • 315 Birge Hall • 608-262-5718 •

Plant ecology and evolution; adaptive radiation and molecular systematics;
phylogeography; physiological ecology; landscape dynamics

My students and I explore several questions at the interface of ecology, evolution, systematics, and biogeography:


By what historical processes do plant species arise, diverge ecologically, and occupy and adapt to different habitats and geographic regions?


How do various features of plant form, physiology, and behavior affect energy capture and growth under different conditions, thereby resulting in competitive success in some contexts and not others?


How can adaptations constrain species distributions and help create gradients in the composition, structure, and diversity of communities and landscapes?


What are the roles of spatially coupled feedbacks in creating patterned landscapes, and how might these be important in designing conservation and restoration strategies at large spatial scales?


Our research involves a wide range of habitats and lineages around the world, with special focus on adaptive radiations, especially on islands and tropical mountains. Current projects focus on the following topics:

Selected Recent Publications


Givnish TJ 2015 New evidence on the origin of carnivorous plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 112: 10-11.pdf

Givnish TJ, Wong SC, Stuart-Williams H, Holloway-Phillips M, Farquhar GD 2014 Determinants of maximum tree height of Eucalyptus along a rainfall gradient in Victoria, Australia. Ecology 95: 2991-3007.pdf


Givnish TJ, Montgomery RA 2014 Common-garden studies on adaptive radiation of photosynthetic physiology among Hawaiian lobeliads. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 281: 20132944.pdf


Givnish TJ, Barfuss MHJ, Van Ee B, Riina R, Schulte K, Horres R, Gonsiska PA, Jabaily RS, Crayn DM, Smith JAC, Winter K, Brown GK, Evans TM, Holst BK, Luther HE, Till W, Zizka G, Berry PE, Sytsma KJ 2014 Adaptive radiation, correlated and contingent evolution, and determinants of net species diversification in Bromeliaceae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 71: 55-78.pdf


Glaser PH, Hansen BCS, Donovan JJ, Givnish TJ, Stricker CA, Volin JC 2013 Holocene dynamics of the Florida Everglades with respect to climate, dustfall, and tropical storms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 110: 17211-17216.pdf


Givnish TJ, Bean G, Ames M, Lyon SP, Sytsma KJ 2013 Phylogeny, floral evolution, and inter-island dispersal in Hawaiian Clermontia (Lobeliaceae) based on ISSR variation and plastid spacer sequences. PLoS ONE 8: e62566.pdf


Sessa EB, Zimmer EA, Givnish TJ 2012 Reticulate evolution on a global scale: a nuclear phylogeny for Dryopteris (Dryopteridaceae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 64: 563-581.pdf


Givnish TJ, MHJ Barfuss, B Van Ee, R Riina, K Schulte, R Horres, PA Gonsiska, RS Jabaily, DM Crayn, JAC Smith, K Winter, GK Brown, TM Evans, BK Holst, H Luther, W Till, G Zizka, PE Berry, KJ Sytsma.  2011.  Phylogeny, adaptive radiation, and historical biogeography in Bromeliaceae:  Insights from an eight-locus plastid phylogeny.  American Journal of Botany 98: 872-895. pdf


Givnish TJ.  2010.  Ecology of plant speciation.  Taxon 59: 1326-1366. pdf


Givnish TJ, M Ames, JR McNeal, MR McKain, PR Steele, CW dePamphilis, JC Pires, DW Stevenson, WB Zomlefer, BG Briggs, MR Duvall, JM Heaney, DE Soltis, PS Soltis, K Thiele, JH Leebens-Mack.  2010.  Assembling the tree of the monocotyledons:  plastome sequence phylogeny and evolution of Poales.  Annals of the Missouri Botanical Gardens 97: 584-616. pdf


Givnish TJ, KC Millam, AR Mast, TB Patterson, TJ Theim, AL Hipp, JM Henss, JF Smith, KR Wood, KJ Sytsma.  2009.  Origin, adaptive radiation and diversification of the Hawaiian lobeliads (Asterales: Campanulaceae).  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 276: 407-416. pdf


Lopez OR, K Farris-Lopez, RA Montgomery, TJ Givnish.  2008.  Leaf phenology in relation to canopy closure in southern Appalachian trees.  American Journal of Botany 95: 1395-1407. pdf


Givnish TJ, Volin JC, Owen VD, Volin VC, Muss JD, Glaser PH. 2008. Vegetation differentiation in the patterned landscape of the Central Everglades: importance of local and landscape drivers. Global Ecology and Biogeography 17: 384-402. pdf

Coop JD, Givnish TJ. 2008. Constraints on tree seedling establishment in montane grasslands of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico. Ecology 89: 1101-1111. pdf

Givnish TJ, Pires JC, Graham SW, McPherson MA, Prince LM, Patterson TB, Rai HS, Roalson ER, Evans TM, Hahn WJ, Millam KC, Meerow AW, Molvray M, Kores P, O’Brien HE, Kress WJ, Hall J, Sytsma KJ. 2005. Repeated evolution of net venation and fleshy fruits among monocots in shaded habitats confirms a priori predictions: evidence from an ndhF phylogeny. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 272: 1481-1490. pdf

Givnish TJ, Montgomery RA, Goldstein G. 2004. Adaptive radiation of photosynthetic physiology in the Hawaiian lobeliads: light regimes, static light responses, and whole-plant compensation points. American Journal of Botany 91: 228-246. pdf

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Photographs:  TOP - Portrait of the scientist as a young man among Nymphaea tuberosa; Platanthera leucophaea (Orchidaceae), one of the most rapidly disappearing species in Midwestern wet prairies; species-rich Eucalyptus woodland, Stirling Range, Western Australia; profile of the Great Smoky Mountains in early spring.  BOTTOM - Floral diversity in Rapateaceae; sandstone escarpment, Auyán-tepui, one of the many sandstone plateaus of the ancient Guayana Shield and home to many narrow endemics; Cyanea floribunda, a highly shade-adapted lobeliad, in the Ola`a Tract of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; false-color satellite image of the central and southern Everglades, showing patterned landscape with streamlined tree islands and a series of water-control structures constructed over the last half-century; Lilium michiganense, a member of the Liliales, one of twelve recognized orders of the monocotyledons.

© 2011 University of Wisconsin Department of Botany

Last updated: 27 November 2011