Mikael Hedrén

Mikael Hedrén


Personal profile


I gained my PhD 1989 in Uppsala on the thesis "Justicia sect. Harnieria (Acanthaceae) in Tropical Africa". My thesis was a taxonomic revision of a group of African herbs and shrubs that had not been much studied since the beginning of the 20th century. However, much material without names had accumulated in botanical museums with time and I decribed several species and taxa at lower rank that were new to science. I also performed crossing and cultivation experiments, and studied pollen micromorphology, pollination biology, breeding systems and seed dispersal mechanisms. My doctoral studies taught me taxonomic methodology and nomenclature and how to work with botanical collections, but they also stimulated my interest in experimental taxonomy and in-depth studies of groups exhibiting complex variation patterns.

In 1991, I went on postdoc to Mark Chase's lab in Chapel Hill, NC to learn more about the systematics of the Acanthaceae by using restriction site mapping and gene sequencing. The rbcL sequence data we produced was combined with rbcL sequences from many other labs, and in 1993 we published the first comprehensive paper describing the phylogeny of Flowering plants based on gene sequences.

Back in Uppsala, I worked on the fine-scale systematics of sedges in the Carex flava complex in Fennoscandia, a group that caught my interest already as a student. I learnt how to use allozymes as molecular markers from Honor Prentice, and I also applied these markers to another old interest, the marsh orchids in the genus Dactylorhiza [sv. handnycklar]. I now dicovererd the fascinating story of polyploid evolution in the genus where two principal lineages, the D. incarnata and the D. maculatalineages, have repeatedly added new variants to theD. majalis complex after hybridization and chromosome doubling.

In 1995, I came to Lund to work as lecturer in botany courses. I was also lucky enough to obtain grants to continue my research in Dactylorhiza. Together with my previous PhD students David Ståhlberg and Sofie Nordström, and in collaboration with research groups abroad, we have discovered more and more details of the polyploid evolution in Dactylorhiza, as well as differentiation patterns at local and regional scales, and patterns of migration and recolonization after the last ice age. We have shown that similar morphs have evolved independently in different parts of Europe, for instance that "D. lapponica" is a mountain ecotype that has evolved in parallel in Scandinavia, Britain and the Alps. We also know that polyploids have evolved over a long time period and that they constitute an archive of genes that successively have gone extinct in the parental lineages. Much of the success of theD. majalis polyploids can be attributed to genomic and epigenetic modifications that have taken place at their origins, which demonstrates the importance of the combined genome of an allopolyploid as a special arena for evolutionary change and to the birth of new successful lineages.

I have also been involved in other fine-scale studies in systematics and evolution. I am currently, together with Stefan Andersson, supervisor of Anneli Jonstrup, who works with ecotype formation in Rhinathus serotinus (Orobanchaceae) for her doctoral thesis.

I have always been interested in animals and plants and a strong reason why I entered into systematics was my desire to contribute hard data for use in conservation. Traditionally, most conservation efforts have been directed towards the preservation of isolated populations at the margin of their species distributions. However, my research also shows that much diversity may be hidden within species and that populations of widespread species may be as important targets for conservation as named taxa. These insights call for a stronger focus on within-species variation patterns and possibly on species that are common in our area, but that are rare in other parts of Europe.

I mainly teach botany and floristics. I recent years, I have been one of the principal teachers of the course "Plant evolution and diversity", BIOR54 and have often taught the advanced summer course in floristics, BIOF03.

Together with my partner Anna-Lena Fritz, I have two children, Ivar born in 1994, and Sigrid born in 1996. My non-professional interests include classical music, early19th century furniture, and the restoration of an old country house on Gotland.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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Collaborations the last five years

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