World’s Monocotyledons: Checklist Now Online
14 November 2006
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has just published the world’s most definitive checklist of the monocotyledon group of flowering plants. The World Checklist of Monocotyledons consolidates the accepted names of all 75,000 species, along with their associated synonyms (a total of over 200,000 names), into a searchable electronic database for the first time.
The Monocotyledons are an immensely diverse and economically important group, comprising of some 75,000 species in 97 families – over a quarter of all flowering plants. Dominating significant parts of world ecosystems, they include the staple grass food crops (wheat, barley, rice and maize) and other important food plants such as onions, palms, yams, bananas, pineapples and gingers.
Many monocotyledons are valued in horticulture, especially daffodils, lilies, irises, hyacinths, snowdrops, orchids, crocus, bromeliads, aroids, palms, grasses and sedges. Others, such Aloe vera, have useful pharmaceutical and chemical properties.
The largest family in this group is the orchids, of which there are about 20 thousand species each with unique complex and striking flowers adapted for highly specific insect pollination.
The Checklist will prove an invaluable resource for a whole range of users such as plant scientists, horticulturists, ecologists, conservationists, medical practitioners and lawyers as well as, of course, the wider public who wish to learn more about plants. Previously the only way to find such information was by seemingly endless, time- consuming trawls through obscure literature, much of which is inaccessible to those not living or working near the main botanical libraries. Now a vast amount of information is available with just a few clicks of a mouse.
The checklist also has extra features which considerably enhance its usefulness. For example the Checklist Builder allows you to compile a list of Monocotyledon species occurring within any continent, region or country, and you can also find out what a plant looks like by a direct link from the accepted name to Google Images.
The Checklist is a significant contribution towards meeting international targets, most notably the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation’s target of a global checklist for the entire plant kingdom by 2010. A quarter of this global checklist is now complete.
The project has taken five years to complete. Co-ordinated from the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the work has also depended on the collaboration of many botanists throughout the world, especially in tropical countries, to check and comment on the data – a truly global effort.
The World Checklist of Monocotyledons is available now at www.kew.org/wcsp/monocots. Currently, data on the grasses data is available separately at www.kew.org/data/grasses-syn.html but the two datasets will be fully integrated by late 2007.
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