3. Collections and Systematics

Below you find the available BSc and/or MSc projects available in the category "Collections and Systematics".

Differentiating Billbergia pyramidalis and Quesnelia humilis: one genus for all and all for one? (BSc)

Supervisor(s): Edwin Pos, Eric Gouda
Project type: writing assignment

Starting period: flexible
Duration: flexible

The genera of Billbergia and Quesnelia are both part of the larger family of Bromeliacea. Morphologically, some members are very similar and differentiating between the two genera remains challenging. This project will combine both morphological and potentially genetic analyses as well to study this conundrum but on a genus-level taxonomy to explore the depth of these similarities on different levels of biological organization.


  • Experience with taxonomy, taxonomic nomenclature and flora is required.

Selected literature:

  • Almeida, Valquíria Rezende, et al. "Morphological phylogenetics of quesnelia (Bromeliaceae, Bromelioideae)." Systematic Botany 34.4 (2009): 660-672.

The Botanical Legacy of Utrecht University Botanic Gardens (MSc)

Supervisor(s): Gijs Steur

The Cantons park in Doorn, former location of the Botanic Gardens. Photo: Tulp8, Wikipedia.

Utrecht University Botanic Gardens was founded in 1639, making it one of the oldest Botanic Gardens in the Netherlands. Over the course of its history, the Gardens has had various locations where they planted and managed plants, before finally settling in the current and only location around Fort Hoofddijk, Utrecht. At these locations the Gardens grew both native and foreign plants, in both natural and highly stylized types of growth forms and vegetations. As plants can have a long life and retention times, the question is to what extent previously planted plants and vegetation can still be found on, or around, the previous locations. For example, in the form of still residing plant species that are not native, either for the country or for the area. Or in the form of still present old tree forms, such as having seven oaks grow intertwined forming one large sulcate stem.

Previous locations of the Garden include: Sonnenborch (Utrecht), Oude Hortus (Utrecht), Cantonspark (Baarn), Sandwijck (de Bilt), von Gimborn arboretum (Doorn) and the “proefvelden bokkenbuurt” (Utrecht). Currently, it is unclear to what extent the current flora and vegetation of these previous locations have been formed by the previous activities of the Botanic Garden. Mapping and analyzing these would help identify and conserve important botanical heritage, such as the presumably oldest Ginkgo of the Netherlands at the Oude Hortus location. In addition, it could lead to the (re)discovery of new plants for the Netherlands, such as with the tropical moss species Hypopterygium tamariscinum that was found at the Cantonspark location. Last but not least, it could help explain the origin of already flagged non-native species, such as the supposedly feral population of Atropa bella-donna around Sonnenborch.

In this Master student project, the student will help map botanic relics at one or multiple of old locations of the Gardens. Activities include carrying out an botanic inventory and analyzing old collection management records. The preferred outcome is a report with an analysis of how these relics have survived up to now, including a SWOT-analysis of their future (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and reflect upon the potential ‘ecosystem services’ these relics can provide at these locations. This project can be carried out between May and September.


  • Must: UU Course Taxonomy and Identification or similar (can be followed during)
  • Must: UU Course Introduction in to the Dutch Flora or similar (can be followed during)
  • Nice-to-have: LU Course Plant Families of the Tropics or similar

Selected References:

  • Heilbron, T. (2012) Botanical Relics of the Plantations of Suriname. MSc Thesis Leiden University.
  • Engelshoven et van der Pluijm (2021) - Hyopterygium tamarisci een tropische ontdekking in Baarn. Buxbaumiella 120.

Taxonomy of the wild tulip in Europe (MSc)

Supervisor(s): Anastasia Stefanaki

Tulipa sylvestris is a small yellow tulip commonly called the wild tulip (‘bostulp’ in Dutch). It was brought from the Mediterranean to the Netherlands and northern Europe in the 16th century and became widely naturalized. Today it grows wild in historical gardens in castles and country estates. Its taxonomic status is unclear and perplexed due to the species’ complex introduction history, polyploidization and naturalization. This project aims to assess the taxonomy of Tulipa sylvestris in Europe. Morphological measurements will be carried out on herbarium specimens. Morphometric analyses will be performed in R and results will be combined with genomic findings to produce a dichotomous key to distinguish between the subspecies of Tulipa sylvestris.