The IBCs are the largest conferences in our field and take place every six years. During the latest edition in the booming city of Shenzhen, which is situated in southeastern China and is home to around 14 million inhabitants, 7000 scientists from all kinds of fields related to plant sciences attended the 19thInternational Botanical Conference. IAWA has a long tradition of organizing wood symposia during the IBCs. Perhaps some of you remember attending St. Petersburg(1975), Sydney (1981), Berlin (1987), Tokyo (1993), St. Louis (1999), Vienna (2006), or Melbourne(2011).

Anyone who has attended an IBC in the past knows that these are huge events, and this was especially true for the Shenzhen conference. Consequently, the many symposia had to be spread over more than 20 parallel sessions and two main venues, making it challenging to select the presentations you wanted to attend. The number of posters was also overwhelming, but fortunately there were lots of digital poster panels allowing participants to screen for topics of interest at any given time.

IAWA successfully organised a wood symposium, entitled “Novel insights into wood research –from evolution to developmental genetics and functional traits” with six interesting contributions. Lichao Jiao (Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, China) talked about forensic timber identification using molecular tools, Christine Strullu-Derrien (Natural History Museum, London, UK) had a wonderful presentation about tracheids in the oldest wood fossil known so far (407 million years old!) based on X-ray imaging, Bo Xu’s contribution (Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK) was about gene diversification and the evolution of water conducting cells in land plants, Frederic Lens (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands) presented his work on the evolutionary transition from herbaceousness towards derived woodiness in flowering plants, the presentation of Shan Li (now Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, China) dealt with the functional value of intervessel pit membrane thickness in flowering plants, and, last but not least, Marcelo Pace (Smithsonian Institute, Washington, USA) presented the recently published IAWA bark list.

Professor Biao Pan and Dr. Shengcheng Zhai (China Group of IAWA) also organised a Social Hour (picture at left), including an official ceremony where Dr. Frederic Lens presented the I.W. Bailey award to Dr. Shan Li, for her paper “Intervessel pit membrane thickness as a key determinant of embolism resistance in angiosperm xylem”, published in IAWA Journal 37: 152–171” (picture at right).


Looking forward to meeting many of you during the next IBC in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2023, but hopefully it will not take so long and we will see each other sooner during one of the many IAWA symposia scheduled for the coming years.

Frederic Lens, Netherlands