Daniel Potter

Daniel Potter

Position Title

Plant Sciences Executive Committee - Teaching and Curriculum

UC Davis, One Shields Ave, Davis CA 95616


  • Ph.D., Cornell University; Botany, 1991
  • A.B., Harvard University; Biology, 1982

Research interests and expertise: 

The primary research emphasis in my lab group is angiosperm systematics, i.e., phylogeny and classification and of flowering plants. We seek to document diversity and investigate diversification in flowering plants, especially horticultural crop plants and their wild relatives. We use phylogenetic analyses of molecular and morphological data, as well as phylogeographic and population genetic approaches, to address taxonomic and evolutionary questions, including human effects on plant evolution through processes such as cultivation, domestication, and dispersal to new areas. A related area of emphasis is ethnobotany, i.e., the study of plant-people interactions, including direct human uses, management, and perceptions of culturally significant plants.

Current projects: 

  • Phylogeny, taxonomy, and historical biogeography of Prunus (Rosaceae).
  • Resolving species delimitations in Holodiscus (Rosaceae) and Sidalcea (Malvaceae) based on morphological and molecular evidence. 
  •  ìIncipient domestication of Huaya India (Melicoccus oliviformis Kunth) in the Tierras Bajas Mayas region of Mexico,î Principal Investigators Dr. Daniel Potter (UC Davis) and Dr. Jaime MartÌnez Castillo (Centro de InvestigaciÛn CientÌfica de Yucat·n, MÈrida, Mexico), funded by a UC MEXUS ñ CONACYT Collaborative Grant.

Current teaching: 

  • Introduction to Biology: Principles of Ecology and Evolution; BIS 2B (winter quarter; 2 out of every 3 years)
  • California Floristics; PLB/PLS 102 (spring quarter)
  • Systematics and Evolution of Angiosperms; EVE/PLB 108 (spring quarter)
  • Ethnobotany; PLS 141 (winter quarter; alternate years)
  • Plant Biology Graduate Group Core Course: Genetics and Evolution; PBI 200A (fall quarter)

Outreach and Extension:

  • I am director of the UC Davis Herbarium and ex officio member of the board of the Davis Botanical Society, which sponsors field trips, workshops, and talks ñ open to both society members and the public.
  • I give talks and lead workshops, intended for general audiences, on the impacts of phylogeny on taxonomy, emphasizing the California flora.
  • I am a member of the Advisory Committee for the California Consulting Botanist Certification program of the California Native Plant Society.
  • I am a member of the USDAís Juglans Crop Germplasm Committee.
  • I host international students and researchers from multiple countries with interests in plant systematics and ethnobotany as visiting scholars in my lab.

External activities that contribute to scholarship:

  • Managing Editor, Systematic Botany
  • Associate Editor, American Journal of Botany

Google Scholar




  • Systematics
  • Taxonomy
  • Phylogeny
  • Evolution
  • Domestication
  • Ethnobotany
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Floristics
  • Biodiversity
  • Rare plants
  • Rosaceae
  • Walnut
  • Juglans
  • Prunus
  • Stonefruits
  • Sapotaceae
  • Biogeography
  • Phylogeography