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U.S., U.K. Compile World’s Plant Species

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How many plant species do you think exist in the world? According to British and American scientists probably around 300,000.  At least hat is the number of plant species ever compiled by researchers at Kew Gardens in London and the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.  This is the first time scientists have compiled such an extensive database of plants found on Earth.  The main reason that scientist from both sides of the pond collaborated to determine the number of plants was to resolve one of botany’s most basic problems; figuring out which plants go by which name. Some plants have been labeled differently by researchers operating in different countries over the past century, while in other cases the different variants of the same plant have been erroneously identified as belonging to different species. There are also cases in which plants names’ have been applied mistakenly, or just misspelled according to scientists. Scientists say that attaching different labels to the same plant can rob researchers of the chance to get the information they need. It’s a problem that frustrates everyone from agricultural regulators to pharmaceutical researchers. 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.  To put things in perspective the 300,000 plants compiled have a list of over 1 million scientific names that are being sorted by the researchers.  Just goes to show you that a rose by any other name may have had several variations.

Photo Credit: John Vlahakis

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