Vicky Beckers

Vicky Beckers

Wood provides mechanical support and long-distance transport of water and minerals within plants. Over evolutionary time, various cell types and an overwhelming diversity of cell patterns have evolved in the wood of flowering plants. In my PhD project, I investigate evolutionary patterns in the microscopic wood anatomy of the Apocynaceae and Sapotaceae families. These results will not only be relevant to understanding species relationships, but also to complementary wood biology disciplines such as the study of structure-function relationships and wood identification to combat illegal logging.


Ancestral state reconstruction, Apocynaceae, Ebenaceae, evolution, light and scanning electron microscopy, Sapotaceae, wood anatomy

Vicky Beckers

PhD Student
Functional Traits
+31 (0)71 751 9600



Comparative wood anatomy is a traditional discipline with far-reaching interdisciplinary applications. For instance, linking standardized wood descriptions with a modern molecular Tree of Life allows us to reconstruct evolutionary patterns in microscopic wood features. Alternatively, the wood descriptions and corresponding microscope images are essential in image reference datasets as a first step to developing a global wood identification pipeline based on wood anatomy.

I will use the latest molecular phylogenies of the Apocynaceae and Sapotaceae families to study evolutionary patterns in wood anatomical characters. The Apocynaceae, or dogbane, family is of wide economic importance and unique in its wide variety of woody and herbaceous growth forms. Previous research already indicates parallel evolutionary shifts towards herbaceousness and derived woodiness in this family. The Sapotaceae, or sapodilla, family is known for its latex, oil producing seeds (Argan oil) and exceptionally heavy, durable timber. The wood anatomy of both families is incompletely known, making it difficult for customs officers and other stakeholders to identify these woods.

Achtergrondafbeelding Vicky Beckers
Kleine afbeelding Vicky Beckers


A selection of the topics I am currently working on.

wood collection Ebenaceae

The power of comparative wood anatomy

Naturalis has a long-standing history in wood anatomical research and houses one of the largest scientific wood collections in the world (approximately 125,000 specimens). By slicing thin pieces of wood, we describe the extraordinary variation in the shape…
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  • Jahanbanifard F., Beckers V.M.H., Koch G., Beeckman H., Gravendeel B., Verbeek F.J., Baas P., Priester C. & Lens F.P. (2020). Description and evolution of wood anatomical characters in the ebony wood genus Diospyros and its close relatives (Ebenaceae): a first step towards combatting illegal loggingIAWA Journal 41(4): 577-619. DOI

In the

  • Early results of our Ebony identification project (Nature Today).
achtergrondafbeelding in de media