Major Kew Study Finds Over 2,000 New Species of Plant (and Loads of Duplicates)

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have carried out what must have been one of the most complex tallying-up processes ever undertaken, in a study designed to figure out how many plants, excluding algae, mosses, liverworts and hornworts (new favourite biological thing), are known to science.

The grand total? 390,900.

The first global assessment of the world's flora has identified 2,034 new plant species, while also finding a great deal of overlap in existing databases and records, with many plants having been given different names by botanists at various points in time.

"It's really important to know how many plant species there are, where they are and the relationship between the groups, because plants are absolutely fundamental to our well-being,” said Prof Kathy Willis, director of science at RBG Kew. “They provide us with our food, our fuel, our medicines - even controlling our climate. This is just scratching the surface. There are thousands out there that we don't know about.”

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However, it's not all positive news. The report also claims that 21% of plants are at risk of extinction, thanks to a number of factors including climate change, habitat loss, disease and invasive species.

Kew has now pledged to undertake the study annually, in order to monitor the ways in which plants are changing over time. [BBC]