Saturday, January 01, 2011

Listing all those plants

American and British botanists have compiled a global list of land plants - all 300,000 known species. It's the most complete survey ever undertaken. Clearing out a mass of taxonomic underbrush built up over centuries, they determined which names were valid and threw out 480,000 duplicate names. Knowing what plant is what and which ones are where is a very big deal, not just for botany, but for plant-based pharmacology and for conservation. Now they are at work naming those plants which have been documented but never properly named. As one researcher noted, this is complicated because people in the field are always bringing in new plants - even trees!

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