Plant Development and Evolutionary History

My research program focuses on the organismic interfaces between developmental, phylogenetic and evolutionary biology. Remarkable recent advances in the study of the phylogenetic relationships of organisms have provided the raw materials for critical studies of character evolution in plants, animals, fungi, and all other forms of life. Armed with hypotheses of relationships among organisms, I seek to explore how patterns of morphology, anatomy and cell biology have evolved through the modification of developmental processes. My goal, with each study I initiate, is to examine the origin and subsequent radiation of a major group of photosynthetic organisms, and to reconstruct the evolutionary events that led to the establishment of defining structural and developmental features of the lineage.

Along with the origins of vascular plants and seed plants, the origin of flowering plants represents one of the three most significant evolutionary radiations of land plants during the last 475 million years. With over 250,000 extant species, angiosperms are the largest and most diverse group of plants ever to have evolved. Paradoxically, we know less about the early evolutionary history of angiosperms than we do about many considerably older groups of land plants. Indeed, Darwin's "abominable mystery" continues to challenge evolutionary biologists.

Representative Publications

Friedman, W.E.. 2015. Development and evolution of the female gametophyte and fertilization process in Welwitschia mirabilis (Welwitschiaceae). American Journal of Botany 102: 312-324. | pdf

Friedman, W.E.. 2015. Evolving words and the egg-bearing tubes of Welwitschia (Welwitschiaceae). American Journal of Botany 102: 176-179. | pdf

Losada, J.M., M. Herrero, J.I. Hormaza and Friedman, W.E.. 2014. Arabinogalactan proteins mark stigmatic receptivity in the protogynous flowers of Magnolia virginiana (Magnoliaceae). American Journal of Botany 101: 1963-1975. | pdf

Friedman, W.E. and P.K. Diggle. 2011. Charles Darwin and the origins of plant evolutionary developmental biology. Plant Cell 23: 1194-120. | pdf

Friedman, W.E. 2009. The meaning of Darwin's "abominable mystery." American Journal of Botany 96: 5-21. | pdf

Friedman, W.E. 2008. Hydatellaceae are water lilies with gymnospermous tendencies. Nature 453: 94-97. | pdf

Winther J.L. and W.E. Friedman. 2008. Arbuscular mycorrhizal associations in Lycopodiaceae. New Phytologist 177: 790-801. | pdf | commentary