Universiteit Leiden

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Frederic Lens

Associate professor

Dr. F.P. Lens
+31 71 527 2727

In 2005, I obtained my PhD in the Laboratory of Plant Systematics at KU Leuven (Belgium), followed by a five-year postdoc position in the same group. After being appointed as tenure-tracker in 2010 at the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (Leiden University), I moved to Leiden. As part of Naturalis Biodiversity Center becoming the new National History Museum of The Netherlands in 2014, I joined the Naturalis research staff, received a promotion to senior researcher in 2018 and to group leader of the new research group Functional Traits in 2019. In 2021, IBL offered me a five-year 0.3 fte position to build bridges in biodiversity research between IBL-Naturalis-CML-Hortus.

More information about Frederic Lens


During my PhD period, 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 my wood anatomical observations with respect to drought tolerance. The outcome of this visit has yielded an award-winning paper on maples (New Phytologist Tansley Medal). Another line of research that has always fascinated me as an evolutionary biologist is to understand why plants became woody during evolutionary history. I discovered that many woody flowering plant species, which have recently evolved from herbaceous relatives, thrive in regions with recurrent drought cycles. This suggests that drought could have been a major driver of wood formation across more than 700 plant lineages that have been identified so far. 

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 woody groups using a collaborative effort with Prof. Offringa (IBL). My collaboration with Dr. Balazadeh (IBL) focuses on the link between gene regulatory networks involved in wood formation and drought stress. In the future, this research could be applied to herbaceous crops, generating taller, woodier and more drought tolerant phenotypes that may help us to produce more food in a world where plant growth will become more demanding due to climate change.

For more information see Frederic Lens - Naturalis


  • Prof. Remko Offringa (IBL, Leiden University)
  • Dr. Salma Balazedeh (IBL, Leiden University)
  • Prof. Peter Klinkhamer (IBL, Leiden University)
  • Dr. Klaas Vrieling (IBL, Leiden University)
  • Dr. Sylvain Delzon (University of Bordeaux, France)
  • Prof. Steven Jansen (Ulm University, Germany)
  • Prof. Klaus Mummenhoff (Osnabruck University, Germany)


Currently, I am involved in the Biology curriculum at Leiden University, where I teach a plant anatomy course in the first Bachelor (Biodiversity of Plants), a course on evolutionary and functional wood anatomy (Minor Biodiversity and Natural Environment), and I lecture on woodiness transitions across major plant lineages at the Master level (Development and Evolution).

Associate professor

  • Science
  • Instituut Biologie Leiden
  • IBL Plant Sciences

Assistant professor guest

  • Science
  • Instituut Biologie Leiden
  • IBL Algemeen

Work address

Sylviusweg 72
2333 BE Leiden



  • Naturalis Biodiversity Center Onderzoeker
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