Thomas J. Givnish


Henry Allan Gleason Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies

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

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


What historical processes cause plant species to 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 drivers of speciation, extinction, and net diversification in different plant lineages?


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 and recent projects focus on (1) the adaptive radiation, historical biogeography, and species diversification of Calochortus, Geissorhiza, Lilium, Bromeliaceae, and various other monocot groups, as well as the Hawaiian lobeliads; (2) the photosynthetic, hydraulic, and allocational traits that help set the distributions of ten Eucalyptus species that dominate different portions of a steep moisture gradient in Victoria, Australia (in collaboration with Kate McCulloh, Duncan Smith, Mark Adams, and Tom Buckley); and (3) the morphological, ecological, genetic, and phylogenetic determinants of trait-origin, trait-trait, and trait-environment relationships in the Wisconsin flora (in collaboration with Ricardo Kriebel, Ken Cameron, Ken Sytsma, and Don Waller). Other research topics are mentioned on the following pages:

Selected Recent Publications


Lin, Q., C. Ané, T. J. Givnish, and S. W. Graham. 2021. A new carnivorous plant lineage (Triantha) with a unique sticky-inflorescence trap. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 118: e2022724118 . pdf


Salvi, A. M., D. D. Smith, M. A. Adams, K. A. McCulloh, and T. J. Givnish. 2021. Mesophyll photosynthetic sensitivity to leaf water potential is lower in Eucalyptus species native to drier climates. New Phytologist 230: 1844–1855. pdf


Richards, J., J. Henn, Q. Sorenson, D. D. Smith, M. Adams, K. A. McCulloh, and T. J. Givnish. 2021. Leaf functional traits of mistletoes and their eucalypt hosts differ in their response to climatic moisture supply. Oecologia 195: 759-771. pdf


Beck, J. J., and T. J. Givnish. 2021. Fine-scale environmental heterogeneity drives spatial resource partitioning among three spring-flowering forest herbs. American Journal of Botany 108: 63-73. pdf


Givnish, T. J. 2020. The Adaptive Geometry of Trees revisited. American Naturalist 195: 935-947. pdf


Givnish, T. J., R. Kriebel, J. G. Zaborsky, J. P. Rose, D. M. Waller, K. M. Cameron, and K. J. Sytsma. 2020. Adaptive associations among life history, flowering, and mating system traits in native and introduced angiosperm floras  . American Journal of Botany 107: 1677-1692. pdf


Stockmeier, L. A., and T. J. Givnish. 2019. Plant distribution, stature, rarity, and diversity in a patterned calcareous fen: tests of geochemical and leaf-height models. American Journal of Botany 106: 807-820. pdf


Fleischmann, A., J. Schlauer, S. Smith and T. J. Givnish. 2018. Evolution of carnivory in angiosperms. Pp. 22-42 in A. M. Ellison and L. Adamec (eds.), Carnivorous plants: plants: physiology, ecology, and evolution, Oxford University Press. pdf


Givnish, T. J., K. W. Sparks, S. J. Hunter, and A. Pavlovič. 2018. Why are plants carnivorous? Cost/benefit analysis, whole-plant growth, and the context-specific advantages of botanical carnivory. Pp. 232-255 in A. M. Ellison and L. Adamec (eds.), Carnivorous plants: physiology, ecology, and evolution, Oxford University Press. pdf


Givnish, T. J., A. Zuluaga, D. Spalink, M. Soto Gomez, V. K. Y. Lam, J. M. Saarela, C. Sass, W. J. D. Iles, D. J. Lima deSousa, J. Leebens-Mack, J. C. Pires, W. B. Zomlefer, M. A. Gandolfo, J. I. Davis, D. W. Stevenson, C. dePamphilis, C. Specht, S. W. Graham, C. F. Barrett, and C. Ané. 2018. Monocot plastid phylogenomics, timeline, net rates of species diversification, the power of multi-gene analyses, and a functional model for the origin of monocots. American Journal of Botany 105: 1888-1910. pdf


Spalink, D., R. Kriebel, P. Li, M. C. Pace, B. T. Drew, J. G. Zaborsky, J. Rose, M. A. Feist, W. S. Alverson, D. M. Waller, K. M. Cameron, T. J. Givnish, and K. J. Sytsma. 2018. Spatial phylogenetics reveals evolutionary constraints on the assembly of a large regional flora. American Journal of Botany 105: 1938-1950. pdf


Ash JD, Givnish TJ, Waller DM 2017 Tracking lags in historical plant species’ shifts in relation to regional climate change. Global Change Biology 23: 1305-1315. pdf


Givnish TJ, Kriebel R 2017 Causes of ecological gradients in leaf margin entirety: evaluating the roles of biomechanics, hydraulics, vein geometry, and bud packing. American Journal of Botany 104: 354-366. pdf


Givnish TJ, Spalink D, Ames M, Lyon SP, Hunter SJ, Zuluaga A, Clements MA, Arroyo MTK, Endara L, Kriebel R, Williams NH, Cameron KM 2016 Orchid historical biogeography, diversification, Antarctica, and the paradox of orchid dispersal. Journal of Biogeography 43: 1905-1916. pdf


Spalink D, Drew BT, Pace MC, Zaborsky JG, Starr JR, Cameron KM, Givnish TJ, Sytsma KJ. 2016. Biogeography of the cosmopolitan sedges (Cyperaceae) and the area-richness correlation in plants. Journal of Biogeography 43: 1893-1904. pdf


Kartzinel RA, Spalink D, Waller DM, Givnish TJ. 2016. Divergence and isolation of cryptic sympatric taxa within the annual legume Amphicarpaea bracteata. Molecular Evolution 6: 3367-3379. pdf


Givnish TJ, Zuluaga A, Lam VKY, Gomez MS, Iles WJD, Spalink D, J. Moeller JR, Lyon SP, Briggs BG, Zomlefer WB, Graham SW 2016 Plastome phylogeny and historical biogeography of the monocot order Liliales: out of Australia and through Antarctica. Cladistics 32: 581-605. pdf


Givnish TJ 2016 Convergent evolution, adaptive radiation, and species diversification in plants. In R Kliman (ed.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 1, pp. 362-373. Academic Press, Oxford. pdf


Alstad AO, Damschen EI, Givnish TJ, Harrington JA, Leach MK, Rogers DA, Waller DM 2016The pace of community change is accelerating in remnant prairies. Science Express 2: e150097. pdf


Wernerehl RW, Givnish TJ 2015 Relative roles of soil moisture, nutrient supply, and mechanical impedance in determining tallgrass prairie composition and structure. PLoS One 10: e0137963. pdf


Givnish TJ, Spalink D, Ames M, Lyon SP, Hunter SJ, Zuluaga A, Clements MA, Arroyo MTK, Leebens-Mack J, Endara L, Kriebel K, Neubig KM, Whitten WM, Williams NH, Cameron KM 2015 Orchid phylogenomics and multiple drivers of extraordinary diversification. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 282: 20151553. pdf


Givnish TJ 2015 Adaptive radiation vs. “radiation” and “explosive diversification”: why conceptual distinctions are fundamental to understanding evolution. New Phytologist 207: S297-S303. pdf


Scoffoni C, Kunkle J, Pasquet-Kok J, Vuong C, Patel AJ, Montgomery RA, Givnish TJ, Sack L. 2015. Light-induced plasticity in leaf hydraulics, anatomy and gas exchange in ecologically diverse Hawaiian lobeliads. New Phytologist 207: 43-58. pdf


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


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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. MIDDLE - 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.

© 2021 University of Wisconsin Department of Botany

Last updated: 28 September 2021