Dr Kálmán Könyves

Kálmán is a botanist and taxonomist, studying the evolutionary relationship between plant groups using DNA sequencing. He joined the Horticultural Taxonomy team in 2014 upon completion of his RHS-sponsored studies

What do you do?

I am a botanist and taxonomist working to ensure plants are named and classified correctly. Using molecular tools, I study the relationship between horticulturally important plant groups in order to help stabilize their names ultimately to give gardeners confidence that the plant they purchase is correctly labelled.
Traditionally, the naming and classification of plants were based on structural (morphological) similarities but the development of DNA-sequencing methods has allowed for plant grouping based on evolution. I study the DNA of plants to ensure all plants grouped into families are actually related, rather than look the same structurally (convergent evolution). For example, euphorbia, succulents and cacti all look similar but are, in fact, from different plant families.
My current research focuses on petaloid monocots. I bring modern tools such as next generation sequencing to horticulturally important monocots through my work.

“I love that my job at the RHS allows me to follow the progression of scientific plant research that I then have the opportunity to apply in my own taxonomic research.”

Why is your team’s research important?

The goal of my research is to ensure that plants, both in gardens and in the wild, are named correctly. Some plants are purchased at a stage of their lifecycle where identifying characteristics, such as flowers, are not present, for example, in bulbs. My work will help give gardeners confidence that they are buying accurately labelled plants.

Projects I’m working on now

  • Plastid genomics of Narcissus and Amaryllidaceae
  • Identity of Gunnera in gardens and as an invasive plant
  • Systematics (classification and nomenclature) of Hyacinthinae
  • Systematics (classification and nomenclature) of Daphne

Completed projects

  • Population genetics of hoop-petticoat daffodils
  • Systematics (classification and nomenclature) of Wisteria


During my PhD I had the opportunity to collect daffodils in Morocco, Spain, and Portugal. Finding the first daffodil on my first expedition in Morocco was one of my proudest moment as it made me believe my project could succeed.


  • Könyves K, Bilsborrow J, Christodoulou MD, Culham A, David J. (2021) Comparative plastomics of Amaryllidaceae: inverted repeat expansion and the degradation of the ndh genes in Strumaria truncata Jacq. PeerJ, 9:e12400
  • Dennehy Z, Bilsborrow J, Culham A, David J, Könyves K. (2021) The complete plastome of the South African species, Amaryllis belladonna L. (Amaryllidaceae). Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 6 (12), pp3393–95
  • Garnett GJL, Könyves K, Bilsborrow J, David J, Culham A. (2020) The complete plastome of Hyacinthoides non-scripta (L.) Chouard Ex Rothm. (Asparagaceae) Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 5 (1), pp1003–04
  • Könyves K, Yooprasert S, Culham A, David J. (2019) The complete plastome of Daphne laureola L. (Thymelaeaceae). Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 4 (2), pp3364–65
  • Könyves K, David J, Culham A. (2019) Jumping through the hoops: The challenges of daffodil (Narcissus) classification. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 190 (4), pp389–404
  • Compton JA, Schrire BD, Könyves K, Forest F, Malakasi P, Mattapha S, Sirichamorn Y. (2019) The Callerya Group redefined and tribe Wisterieae (Fabaceae) amended based on morphology and data from nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequences. PhytoKeys 125, pp1–112
  • Könyves K, Bilsborrow J, David J, Culham A. (2018) The complete chloroplast genome of Narcissus poeticus L. (Amaryllidaceae: Amaryllidoideae). Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 3 (2), pp1137–38
  • Robinson RJ, Könyves K, Scrace J. (2017) First record of the fungus Blumeriella kerriae in the UK. New Disease Reports, 35, p34
  • Könyves K, Armitage J. (2017) Tangled shrubbery – understanding the classification of Daphne. International Dendrology Society Yearbook
  • Könyves K, David J, Culham A. (2016) Microsatellite Markers for Hoop-Petticoat Daffodils (Narcissus sect. Bulbocodii; Amaryllidaceae). Applications in Plant Sciences, 4 (4), 1500127

PhD Students

  • Co-supervisor to Zoë Dennehy, who is researching how past climate change shaped daffodil evolution at The University of Reading
  • Co-supervisor to Hannah Hall, who is working on the taxonomy of bluebells, grape hyacinths, and squills at The University of Reading

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.