PROJECT & AIMS

Scientists have split the atom, landed on the moon and sequenced the human genome but are a long way from documenting the world’s flora [1]. Current estimates of the number of described species of flowering plants range from 230,000-420,000 [1,2]. The last attempt to monograph the world’s flora was that of de Candolle in the mid-19th century. Since that time, the world has been explored at much finer resolution and the number of specimens in herbaria has increased enormously [3,4]. Recent attempts such as the Species Plantarum project have failed because of overambitious aims or lack of finance. Comprehensive monographic treatments in the past 50 years are few [5–7] and often of groups that are relatively small. A major problem for contemporary taxonomy is the sheer volume of material associated with any large taxonomic group. The burden of historical and contemporary literature, the volume of specimens housed in herbaria from many parts of the world, in combination with the tasks of species delimitation, writing keys and describing new species, means that many species-rich tropical groups of plants remain relatively untouched in modern times. If knowledge of the taxonomy of the world’s flora is to be greatly enhanced, pragmatic fast electronic and innovative solutions, focused on a single global agenda —the species level inventory— are essential [8,9]. This proposal aims to begin the process of developing such novel and innovative solutions.

The text above was the opening paragraph for a grant application to The Leverhulme Trust, submitted in late 2011, to write what we called a ‘Foundation monograph’ of Ipomoea. Seven years later, to coincide with two major publications: A monograph of Ipomoea in the New World (a taxonomic revision of the 423 American species, currently in press) and A taxonomic monograph of Ipomoea integrated across phylogenetic scales (phylogenetic trees and methodology for integrating DNA and morphology) we are launching this website to make available the data we have accumulated thus far and list our publications and results.

This website was designed primarily as a platform to make available the databases that underlie this project, both taxonomical and corological. In addition, we now have in place a robust phylogenetic framework with which to interpret the evolution of this group of plants. Using that phylogenetic framework, we provide a tool that allows the user to identify the position of a specimen of interest in our phylogenies using DNA markers.

References

1. Paton, A. J. et al. Towards Target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation: a working list of all known plant species - progress and prospects. Taxon 57, 602–611 (2008). // 2. Scotland, R. W. & Wortley, A. H. How many species of seed plant are there? Taxon 52, 101–104 (2003). // 3. Prance, G. T. Floristic inventory of the tropics: where do we stand? Ann. Mo. Bot. Gard. 64, 659–684 (1977). // 4. Prance, G. T. Discovering the plant world. Taxon 50, 345–359 (2001).// 5. Prance, G. T. Chrysobalanaceae. Flora Neotropica 9, 409 (1972). // 6. Hilliard, O. M. & Burtt, B. L. The genus Agalmyla (Gesneriaceae- Cyrtandroideae). Edinb. J. Bot. 59, 1–210 (2002). // 7. Pennington, T. D. The Genus Inga. (The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, 1997). // 8. Wilson, E. O. A global map of biodiversity. Science 289, 2279 (2000). // 9. Wilson, E. O. The encyclopedia of life. Trends Ecol. Evol. 18, 77–80 (2003).

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