Researchers Cut 600,000 Names From Global Plant List

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You like to-may-toes and I like to-mah-toes
Up until recently, botanists believed that there to be over one million types of flowering plants on Earth, but now about 600 thousand of those species my soon be cut from the list -- but extinction's not to blame this time. It turns out that after decades of cataloging plants from around the world, there have been quite a few 'duplicate' entries, identical species filed under different names. Now, British researchers hope to sort through the list to more accurately account for our planet's flora -- which is much better than calling the whole thing off.According a report from The Telegraph, the project to streamline the world's plant listing was led by researchers in the UK's Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and has taken almost three years to complete. The crux of the problem stems from different plants having multiple names. The tomato, for example, was previously registered under nearly 800 different names, which has led to something of an organizational nightmare.

Alan Paton, a keeper at the Gardens, explains how the scale of redundancy managed to become so large:

On average, one plant might have between two and three names, which doesn't sound a great deal, but if you're trying to find information on a plant, you might not find all [of it] because you're only looking at one name. That's even more critical for economically useful plants: because they are more used, they tend to have more names.

Working with nearly 200 governments around the world to parse down the known plant species catalog, researchers say that what they'll be left with will be "the most comprehensive list ever made," allowing future botanists to share their research more uniformly. The hope is that better record keeping may help aid in plant conservation.

"Without accurate names -- authoritatively determined -- understanding and communication about global plant life would descend into inefficient chaos," Stephen Hooper, director from the Gardens at Kew, told UPI.

The list, to be published later this year, will now categorize most of the world's 400 thousand plants by their scientific names -- which means over half-a-million plant names will be scrubbed.

No worry though, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

More on the Power of Names
In Rwanda, Saving Mountain Gorillas by Naming Them
For Sale: Naming Rights to Newly Discovered Species
The Frogs Still Need Your Help!

Tags: Biodiversity | Biology | Preservation

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