A single database to identify all 1.3 mn plants

Botanists from Britain and the US have created the most comprehensive list, identifying around 1.3 million known species of land plants with their alternative names.

Last Updated: Dec 31, 2010, 18:13 PM IST

London: Botanists from Britain and the US have created the most comprehensive list, identifying around 1.3 million known species of land plants with their alternative names.
The database created by researchers at Kew Gardens in Britain and the Missouri Botanical Garden in the US, identifies 1.25 million plant names. The list include 300,000 plants recognised as standard species while 480,000 are regarded as synonyms or alternative names, the Daily Mail reported.

Scientists say the list of the scientific Latin names will help to end the century-old confusion caused by ignorance and rivalry over the years.

Some plants have been labelled differently by researchers working in different countries and there have been cases of different variants of the same plant which have been erroneously identified as belonging to different species. Some plants names` have also been applied mistakenly, or just misspelled.

Peter Wyse Jackson, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, said: "The plant list is a major step forward for botanical science. It provides for the first time a basic checklist of what plants are on the planet."

A spokesman from Kew Gardens was quoted as saying: "Without accurate names, understanding and communication about global plant life would descend into inefficient chaos, costing vast sums of money and threatening lives in the case of plants used for food or medicine."

According to experts, attaching different labels to the same plant in the past has robbed researchers of getting the information they need.

"If you only know it by one of its many names you only get part of the story," said Eimear Nic Lughadha, senior scientist at Kew responsible for the list.

It`s a problem that frustrates everyone from agricultural regulators to pharmaceutical researchers.

"Imagine trying to find everything that`s ever been published about a plant: which chemicals are in it, whether it`s poisonous or not, where is it found," said Alan Paton, from Kew. "To find that information, you need to know all of the different scientific names that have been used for it."

The plant compendium aims to clear up that confusion by putting all the various names in one place - and sorting out which ones apply to which plant.

The data, however, leaves 260,000 names that are "unresolved". This is where the data is deemed too sketchy to easily determine whether a new plant claim is backed up by facts. This part of the list will be tackled by scientists in the coming decades.

IANS