The Plant List

Last updated
The Plant List
Type of site
Available in English
Created by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden
LaunchedDecember 2010
Current statusInactive since 2013 (version 1.1), superseded by World Flora Online

The Plant List was 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. [1] 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 (GSP C), to produce "An online flora of all known plants.” It has not been updated since 2013, and has been superseded by World Flora Online. [2] [3]


World Flora Online

In October 2012, the follow-up project World Flora Online was launched with the aim to publish an online flora of all known plants by 2020. [4] This is a project of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, with the aim of halting the loss of plant species worldwide by 2020. It is developed by a collaborative group of institutions around the world response to the 2011-2020 GSPC's updated Target 1. This aims to achieve an online Flora of all known plants by 2020. [2] It was conceived in 2012 by an initial group of four institutions; the Missouri Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. [5]

There is a complementary project called the International Plant Names Index, in which Kew is also involved. The IPNI aims to provide details of publication and does not aim to determine which are accepted species names. Newly published names are automatically added from IPNI to the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, a database which underlies the Plant List.


The Plant List has 1,064,035 scientific plant names of species rank, [6] of which 350,699 are accepted species names, belonging to 642 plant families and 17,020 plant genera. [7] The Plant List accepts approximately 350,699 unique species, with 470,624 synonyms for those species, which suggests that many species have been referred to under more than one name. As of 2014, The Plant List has determined that another 243,000 names are "unresolved", meaning that botanists have so far been unable to determine whether they are a separate species or a duplication of the 350,699 unique species.

Public attention

When The Plant List was launched in 2010 (the International Year of Biodiversity), it attracted media attention for its comprehensive approach. Fox News highlighted the number of synonyms encountered, suggesting that this reflected a "surprising lack" of biodiversity on earth." [8] The Plant List also attracted attention for building on the work of English naturalist Charles Darwin, who in the 1880s started a plant list called the Index Kewensis (IK). Kew has added an average of 6,000 species every year since the IK was first published with 400,000 names of species. [8] However, the IK (which by 1913 avoided making taxonomic judgement in its citations) is currently run as part of the IPNI rather than the Plant List. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

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International Plant Names Index Database of plant names

The International Plant Names Index (IPNI) describes itself as "a database of the names and associated basic bibliographical details of seed plants, ferns and lycophytes." Coverage of plant names is best at the rank of species and genus. It includes basic bibliographical details associated with the names. Its goals include eliminating the need for repeated reference to primary sources for basic bibliographic information about plant names.

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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.

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Adolf Engler German botanist (1844–1930) noted for taxonomy

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The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families is an "international collaborative programme that provides the latest peer reviewed and published opinions on the accepted scientific names and synonyms of selected plant families." Maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, it is available online, allowing searches for the names of families, genera and species, as well as the ability to create checklists.

The Kew Rule was used by some authors to determine the application of synonymous names in botanical nomenclature up to about 1906, but was and still is contrary to codes of botanical nomenclature including the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. Index Kewensis, a publication that aimed to list all botanical names for seed plants at the ranks of species and genus, used the Kew Rule until its Supplement IV was published in 1913.

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  1. "World's Largest Plants Database Assembled". 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  2. 1 2 "Home — The Plant List". Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  3. "Home". Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  4. "Website of the World Flora Online Consortium". The World Flora Online Consortium. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  5. "World Flora Online". Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  6. "Summary Statistics". The Plant List. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
  7. "US, British scientists drew up the comprehensive list of world's known land plants". CBC.[ dead link ]
  8. 1 2 "World's Plant Life Far Less Diverse Than Previously Thought". Fox News. 30 December 2010.
  9. "About the Index Kewensis". International Plant Names Index. 2004.