Index Kewensis

Last updated

The 1893 Index Kewensis (IK), maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is a publication that aims to register all botanical names for seed plants at the rank of species and genera. It later came to include names of taxonomic families and ranks below that of species.


The Index is currently maintained as part of the International Plant Names Index in combination with the Gray Herbarium and Australian Plant Name indexes. This database is anticipated to complete the task of creating a complete list of plant names, although it does not determine which are accepted species names. [1]


The preparation for this venture was made by Benjamin Daydon Jackson of the Linnaean Society, directed by Joseph Dalton Hooker at Kew. Charles Darwin provided the funding for the indexing project. When he died in 1882 his will stipulated that provision be made for £250 per annum over a 5-year period. In providing citations of plant names, the starting point was taken from 1753 onward; the year of publication for the Species Plantarum of Linnaeus. Darwin had found difficulties in applying these to the plants he studied, and Hooker's directive was to 'the compilation of an Index to the Names and Authorities of all known flowering plants and their countries'. [2] While the Index has never fulfilled this original charter, it was the most comprehensive for over 100 years.

Previous attempts at a comprehensive index had relied on secondary sources, this was the first attempt to provide the original publication details of the names. A note on the country of origin was also included. The publications of De Candolle, Pfeiffer, and Bentham provided models for the acceptance of names. However, the editor admitted that not all earlier sources were included; this sometimes led to subsequent errors in botanical nomenclature. [3]

The scope of the project was also changed in early editions, the editor noting that to include a full synonymy was too ambitious. The work originally indicated acceptance of a name, acting as a nomenclator rather than an index, but by 1913 it avoided making taxonomic judgement in its citations. The integrity of the document was liable to criticism as only representing the 'Kew view' on nomenclatural validity, the objective task of indexing gave the work itself greater international acceptance. [1]

A description of Hooker's systematic works by F O Bower notes the "scheme originated in the difficulty he had found in the accurate naming of plants", and anticipates the importance of this work, [4]

"Surely no greater technical benefit was ever conferred upon a future generation by the veterans of science than this Index. It smooths the way for every systematist who comes after. It stands as a monument to an intimate friendship. It bears witness to the munificence of Darwin, and the ungrudging personal care of Hooker."


First published in 1893, [5] a hard copy was reprinted in 1996, providing access to the original publication details of plant names; these were also made available in microfiche format as the Cumulated Index Kewensis. The publication titled Kew Index was issued from 1986 until 1989. [6]

The first index contained the scientific names of 400,000 species, regular supplements were then issued on newly published names. The supplements were issued every five years, each one adding around 6000 names to the index, eventually forming a compilation of over 1,000,000 entries. The sixteenth supplement began to include bibliographic details at the rank of family and below, the later annual supplements included ferns and their allies. A digitalized version of the index was issued on a Compact Disc. A digital version was incorporporated with other indexes as the International Plant Names Index (IPNI), and may fulfill the original intention - a complete index of plant names. [1] Entries at IPNI are designated with the abbreviation "(IK)". [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Government botanical research institute in the UK

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. An internationally important botanical research and education institution, it employs 1,100 staff. Its board of trustees is chaired by Dame Amelia Fawcett.

Joseph Dalton Hooker British botanist, lichenologist, and surgeon (1817–1911)

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker was a British botanist and explorer in the 19th century. He was a founder of geographical botany and Charles Darwin's closest friend. For twenty years he served as director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, succeeding his father, William Jackson Hooker, and was awarded the highest honours of British science.

George Bentham 19th century British botanist known for his classification of plants

George Bentham was an English botanist, described by the weed botanist Duane Isely as "the premier systematic botanist of the nineteenth century". Born into a distinguished family, he initially studied law, but had a fascination with botany from an early age, which he soon pursued, becoming president of the Linnaean Society in 1861, and a fellow of the Royal Society in 1862. He was the author of a number of important botanical works, particularly flora. He is best known for his taxonomic classification of plants in collaboration with Joseph Dalton Hooker, his Genera Plantarum (1862–1883). He died in London in 1884.

Sir Edward James Salisbury CBE FRS was an English botanist and ecologist. He was born in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and graduated in botany from University College London in 1905. In 1913, he obtained a D.Sc. with a thesis on fossil seeds and was appointed a senior lecturer at East London College. He returned to University College London as a senior lecturer, from 1924 as a reader in plant ecology and from 1929 as Quain Professor of botany.

Johan Lange

Johan Martin Christian Lange was a prominent Danish botanist.

William Turner Thiselton-Dyer British botanist (1843–1928)

Sir William Turner Thiselton-Dyer was a leading British botanist, and the third director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Benjamin Daydon Jackson British botanist

Benjamin Daydon Jackson was a pioneering botanist and taxonomer who wrote the first volume of Index Kewensis to include all the flowering plants.

<i>Banksia candolleana</i> Species of shrub in thefamily Proteaceae endemic to Western Australia

Banksia candolleana, commonly known as the propeller banksia, is a species of shrub that is endemic to Western Australia. It has shiny green, deeply serrated leaves with triangular lobes and spikes of golden yellow flowers on short side branches.

David Prain Scottish physician and botanist (1857–1944)

Sir David Prain was a Scottish botanist who worked in India at the Calcutta Botanical Garden and went on to become Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

<i>Supplementum Plantarum</i>

Supplementum Plantarum Systematis Vegetabilium Editionis Decimae Tertiae, Generum Plantarum Editiones Sextae, et Specierum Plantarum Editionis Secundae, commonly abbreviated to Supplementum Plantarum Systematis Vegetabilium or just Supplementum Plantarum, and further abbreviated by botanists to Suppl. Pl., is a 1782 book by Carolus Linnaeus the Younger. Written entirely in Latin, it was intended as a supplement to the 1737 Genera Plantarum and the 1753 Species Plantarum, both written by the author's father, the "father of modern taxonomy", Carl Linnaeus.

<i>Banksia tridentata</i> Species of shrub in the family Proteaceae endemic to Western Australia

Banksia tridentata, commonly known as yellow honeypot, is a low-growing shrub that is endemic to the southwest of Western Australia. It has narrow egg-shaped leaves with a sharp point on the tip, greenish yellow flowers in heads of between 85 and 125, and elliptical to egg-shaped follicles.

<i>Icones Plantarum</i>

Icones Plantarum is an extensive series of published volumes of botanical illustration, initiated by Sir William Jackson Hooker. The Latin name of the work means "Illustrations of Plants". The illustrations are drawn from herbarium specimens of Hooker's herbarium, and subsequently the herbarium of Kew Gardens. Hooker was the author of the first ten volumes, produced 1837–1854. His son, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, was responsible for Volumes XI-XIX. Daniel Oliver was the editor of Volumes XX-XXIV. His successor was William Turner Thiselton-Dyer. The series now comprises forty volumes.

<i>Senecio tripinnatifidus</i> Species of flowering plant

Senecio tripinnatifidus is a species of the genus Senecio and family Asteraceae and is a native of Chile.

The Plant List is a list of botanical names of species of plants created by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Missouri Botanical Garden and launched in 2010. It was intended to be a comprehensive record of all known names of plant species over time, and was produced in response to Target 1 of the 2002-2010 Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, to produce "An online flora of all known plants.” It has not been updated since 2013, and has been superseded by World Flora Online.

<i>Acokanthera oblongifolia</i> Species of plant

Acokanthera oblongifolia is a plant in the family Apocynaceae. It grows as an evergreen shrub or small tree up to 6 metres (20 ft) tall. Its fragrant flowers feature a white tinged pink corolla. The berries are purple when ripe. Its habitat is dry forest and coastal thickets. Acokanthera oblongifolia is used in local African medicinal treatments for snakebites, itches and internal worms. The plant has been used as arrow poison. The species is native to Mozambique and South Africa.

Jean Kickx Son of Jacques Kickx and Marie van Esschen was a Belgian botanist and mineralogist. His son Jean Kickx (1803-1864) and grandson Jean Jacques Kickx (1842-1887) both became professors of botany at the University of Ghent.

Chrétien Géofroy Nestler, name also given as Christian Gottfried Nestler, was an Alsatian botanist and pharmacist.

Aulonemia gueko is a species of bamboo in the genus Aulonemia. It is part of the grass family and endemic to Latin America.

<i>Isopogon longifolius</i> Species of shrub in the family Proteaceae endemic to the southwest of Western Australia

Isopogon longifolius is a small shrub in the family Proteaceae that is endemic to the southwest of Western Australia.

<i>Isopogon linearis</i> Species of shrub in the family Proteaceae endemic to the southwest of Western Australia

Isopogon linearis is a small shrub in the family Proteaceae that is endemic to the southwest of Western Australia.


  1. 1 2 3 Lughadha, Eimear Nic; Okada, M; Hirata, Y; Saito, T; Arisato, N; Ishigaki, S; Niitsu, Y (April 29, 2004). "Towards a working list of all known plant species". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 359 (1444): 681–687. doi:10.1098/rstb.2003.1446. PMC   1693359 . PMID   15253353.
  2. Jackson 1893, Hooker JD. Preface, in.
  3. Arthur D. Chapman (14 December 2006). "Australian Flora and Fauna Series - Number 12. Australian Plant Name Index". Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. Australian National Botanic Gardens. Introduction to the original 1991 printed version
  4. Bower, Frederick Orpen (1913). "Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker 1817—1911". In Francis Wall Oliver (ed.). Makers of British Botany. London: Cambridge University Press. pp. 314–315.
  5. Jackson 1893.
  6. "Reference Works, Bibliographies, etc". Data and Publications. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Archived from the original on 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2018-04-02. Cumulated Index Kewensis: Original 2 volumes plus supplements 1-16: Microfiche version of cut-up set in Kew Library.
  7. "About the Index Kewensis". International Plant Names Index. 2004.