Agathis ovata in mist, 900 m altitude, upper valley of the Koéalagoguamba, Monts Dzumac, New Caledonia

Agathis ovata in mist, 900 m altitude, upper valley of the Koéalagoguamba River, Monts Dzumac, New Caledonia (here).

Welcome to my Systematics of Agathis Salisb. website. This is being steadily assembled from bits and pieces produced during the course of my doctoral study of the genus at the University of Oxford, supervised by Stephen Harris in Oxford and by Aljos Farjon at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Agathis is a genus of tropical conifers which belongs to the Araucariaceae, the same family as the monkey-puzzles and Cook-pines (Araucaria) and the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia). Agathis trees are usually huge trees of lowland rain forests, though some grow in mossy forests on mountain tops, and another (as above) grows as low candelabra-like forms in low maquis minier scrubland. The genus is distributed from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, through New Guinea, Queensland and the eastern Solomons, to Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and New Zealand.

The genus is especially economically important for two reasons: firstly, for its beautiful, high value timber, and secondly for its valuable resin which is still used for many varnishes and lacquers. It is also a particularly challenging genus to understand taxonomically. Most herbarium specimens are sterile, the nomenclature is famously confused, there is very little morphological variation between the species and next to nothing is known about the phylogeny of the genus.

You can find out more about the systematics of Agathis by following the links to the left. If you need a specimen identified, you can either try and use my key (coming soon) or e-mail me with details of the pollen cone. Please note that sterile specimens cannot be confidently identified! A checklist of species currently recognized with correct names and typification details is available as the ‘Taxonomy’ page.

I’m presently working on the New Caledonian species of Agathis, with a view to applying molecular data to understand species limits in this group, where previous studies have relied entirely on the morphology of the few fertile collections. I’ve made hundreds of collections of DNA samples, and dozens of new herbarium collections for Oxford, Nouméa and Kew, in the course of two months of fieldwork in New Caledonia earlier this year. You can read more about the ideas that underpin this approach by clicking on the ‘Species’ link at the left hand side.

I hope this website is of use, or at least of interest, to you. If you have a query, a suggestion for its improvement, or anything obvious which is missing, please do get in touch with me - contact details as at the foot of this page. If you work on any aspect of the biology or use of Agathis I would love to hear from you.

Timothy Waters, Oxford, November 2003

Site last updated 2005-09-20