The orchid trade of China

The wild harvesting of orchids in China presents a major threat to wild populations. Many species are used medicinally and in horticulture, with a long history of use. With growing demand in recent years, large scale cultivation has been established in many places of China. This project is just getting up and running and is a collaborative effort between myself, Gao Jiangyun at XTBG, Stephan Gale at Kadoorie Botanic Garden and Farm, and Hong Liu, Florida International University.


Orchids have been used for medicine for over 2000 years. Here the stems and flowers of Dendrobium nobilis are made into a delicious tea.


Large scale cultivation has been started to meet the growing market demand for orchids used for medicine.











Past projects ….

Understanding human behaviour to improve plant conservation interventions

My PhD research focused on the cultivation and illegal harvesting of xaté (Chamaedorea spp.) in Belize and Guatemala. Over-harvesting is thought to be a threat to wild populations and cultivation has been encouraged through training people how to grow xaté. With a fantastic research team, Adolfo Marroquín, Amanda Dibble and Tom Pienkowski, we interviewed wild harvesters and farmers adopting cultivation to understand what influences their decision-making. For more info about this project read the xaté blog or look into my publications.

Identifying Important Plant Areas in the Turks and Caicos Islands


Encyclia caicensis

The Important Plant Area (IPA) initiative, spearheaded by Plantlife International, aims to identify sites of exceptional botanical importance for conservation.  With the UK Overseas Territories team at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, I assessed the distribution of three endemic species across the Turks and Caicos Islands. Using the software MaxEnt, I modelled the habitat suitability of Encyclia caicensis, Argythamnia argentea and the national flower, Limonium bahamense. The final maps highlight Important Plant Areas for these endangered species. For more info go to my publications.


Conservation of the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot (Amazona barbadensis)

Screen shot 2013-05-07 at 19.49.16

In 2007 I travelled to Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles to assist two PhD students working on the population dynamics and behaviour of the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot (Amazona barbadensis). This project has since developed into an exciting conservation initiative, Echo Bonaire, coordinated by my big brother Dr. Sam Williams. He is always keen for volunteers so get in touch with him if you are interested.

The ecology and conservation of the spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla)

The spiral aloe Aloe polyphylla, endemic to Lesotho

In 2004 Katse Botanic Garden in Lesotho twinned with Treborth Botanic Garden, North Wales. As part of my undergraduate project I travelled to the Drakensburg Mountains to study the ecology and conservation of the endemic spiral aloe. This species is illegally harvested for the horticultural trade and is thought to be in decline. I worked with Katse Botanic Garden to develop an ex situ collection of this species and developed a method for improving germination of the seeds.

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This work by Sophie Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

2 thoughts on “Research

  1. Dear Sophie,
    I live in the Turks and Caicos Islands and I a searching for a way to identify all the native plant species that I see here. I would be very happy if you could give me some references or directions.

    • Hi Patrick,
      Have you met Naqqi Manco? He lives on Middle Caicos and works with the Government department for the environment (DENCR when I was there). Naqqi is very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the islands and would be a good person to connect with.

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