Universiteit Leiden

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F.P. Lens

Assistant professor guest

Dr. F.P. Lens
+31 71 751 9320

I obtained my PhD at KU Leuven (Belgium) in 2005 after which I have spent six years as a postdoc funded by the Flemish Science Foundation in the Laboratory of Plant Systematics. I was appointed as assistant professor (tenure tracker) in 2010 at the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (Leiden University). In 2014, I became a permanent researcher at Naturalis Biodiversity Center, and in 2018 I was promoted as senior researcher. I was a visiting postdoc at the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (Leiden) in 2006, at the University of Utah (USA) in 2009, and visiting professor at the University of Bordeaux (France) in 2013 and 2014.

More information about F.P. Lens


During my PhD period as teaching assistant (2000-2005), I studied evolutionary and ecological signals in the wood anatomy of flowering plants. My postdoc internship in the Sperry lab (Univ. of Utah, USA) taught me how to perform water flow measurements in stems, which enabled me to functionally interpret wood anatomical observations with respect to different levels of drought stress resistance between species, with particular emphasis on the ultrastructure of intervessel pits. The outcome of this anatomical-hydraulic work has resulted in an award-winning paper on maples in New Phytologist (Tansley Medal for Excellence in Plant Science in 2010). Another line of research that has always fascinated me as an evolutionary biologist is to understand the frequent life form transitions in flowering plants, especially the growth form transition from herbaceousness towards (derived) woodiness. I just finished a unique global dataset on derived woodiness in flowering plants, showing that derived woodiness has evolved at least 600 times independently, which raises the intriguing question which (a)biotic factors triggered wood formation in all these lineages. Most of these derived woody species are native to dry continental vegetation types, which may point to palaeoclimatic drought periods as potential drivers behind wood formation in various herbaceous groups. 

In addition to the question why plants became woody during evolutionary history, I am interested to know what are the genes that have turned on the wood pathway in all these hundreds of derived woody groups using gene expression and QTL experiments in Arabidopsis and relatives. I hope my research could contribute to complementary directions, such as inducing woody and thus more drought resistant and taller phenotypes in otherwise herbaceous crops that may help us to produce more food in a world where plant growth will become more demanding due to climate change.

More information -> Frederic Lens - Naturalis


I teach about basic plant anatomy (development of stems, roots and leaves) in the first Bachelor (Biodiversity of Plants), about anatomical, evolutionary and functional aspects of wood in the third year Bachelor (Minor Biodiversity and Naturalis Environment, coordinator of 2-week module Evolutionary Developments), and about derived woodiness in the first year of Master (Development and Evolution).


Assistant professor guest

  • Science
  • Instituut Biologie Leiden
  • IBL Herbarium

Work address

Sylviusweg 72
2333 BE Leiden


  • Naturalis Biodiversity Center Onderzoeker
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