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The number of known plant species in the world and its annual increase

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We have counted the currently known, described and accepted number of plant species as ca 374,000, of which approxi-mately 308,312 are vascular plants, with 295,383 flowering plants (angiosperms; monocots: 74,273; eudicots: 210,008). Global numbers of smaller plant groups are as follows: algae ca 44,000, liverworts ca 9,000, hornworts ca 225, mosses 12,700, lycopods 1,290, ferns 10,560 and gymnosperms 1,079. Phytotaxa is currently contributing more than a quarter of the ca 2000 species that are described every year, showing that it has become a major contributor to the dissemination of new species discovery. However, the rate of discovery is slowing down, due to reduction in financial and scientific support for fundamental natural history studies.
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Phytotaxa 261 (3): 201–217
http://www.mapress.com/j/pt/
Copyright © 2016 Magnolia Press Editorial PHYTOTAXA
ISSN 1179-3155 (print edition)
ISSN 1179-3163 (online edition)
Accepted by Zhi-Qiang Zhang: 4 May 2016; published: 20 May 2016
http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/phytotaxa.261.3.1
201
The number of known plants species in the world and its annual increase
MAARTEN J.M. CHRISTENHUSZ1,2 & JAMES W. BYNG1,3
1Plant Gateway, Hertford, SG13 7BX, United Kingdom.
2Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond TW9 3DS, United Kingdom.
3Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Botany, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 RA, Leiden, The Netherlands.
E-mail: m.christenhusz@kew.org
Abstract
We have counted the currently known, described and accepted number of plant species as ca 374,000, of which approxi-
mately 308,312 are vascular plants, with 295,383 flowering plants (angiosperms; monocots: 74,273; eudicots: 210,008).
Global numbers of smaller plant groups are as follows: algae ca 44,000, liverworts ca 9,000, hornworts ca 225, mosses
12,700, lycopods 1,290, ferns 10,560 and gymnosperms 1,079. Phytotaxa is currently contributing more than a quarter of
the ca 2000 species that are described every year, showing that it has become a major contributor to the dissemination of
new species discovery. However, the rate of discovery is slowing down, due to reduction in financial and scientific support
for fundamental natural history studies.
When working on the classification of vascular plants at a global scale, we often receive questions about the numbers
of currently described and accepted species in a particular lineage. Additionally, in Phytotaxa and other taxonomical
journals, it is general practice to cite numbers of genera and species in a family or genus, when the organism of
study is introduced (e.g. Chen et al. 2015, Christenhusz 2015, Fernandez-Júnior & Esteves 2016, Ortiz et al. 2016,
Otto & Verloove 2016, Sofiyanti et al. 2016, and many more). The numbers of species of given families fluctuates
though, because systematic research is not static with new species and genera continually being described, whilst
others are being synonymised. As soon as a number is published, the number is outdated. There are also disagreements
in taxonomy with differing opinions on species circumscriptions in some groups, whilst reliable accounts are difficult
to find or are only rough estimates in others rather than actual counts. This is particularly the case in large species rich
groups. Nevertheless, there is a demand for a reliable estimate of species numbers, and in light of the recently published
APG IV (2016), we thought it useful to compile a list of genera and species and calculate the annual increase.
Below we provide a list of all vascular plant families (Table 1; lycopods and ferns based on Christenhusz & Chase
2014; gymnosperms based on Christenhusz et al. 2011; angiosperms based on APG IV 2016), with estimated numbers
of described and accepted genera and species. This should not be confused with the total hypothesised number of
species (i.e. described and undescribed) which is subject to increases (new discovery) and declines (new synonyms) as
new evidence comes available. Species numbers for families that have been treated in the Kew Checklist of Selected
Plant Families (WCSP 2016) are generally followed here and adapted where new evidence has emerged but was not
yet absorbed into this checklist or proven contradictory by the taxonomic community. If families were not treated then
the most recent monographs, revisions and flora treatments were consulted. These numbers were originally compiled
for our comprehensive plant family books (Byng 2014, 2015, in press, Christenhusz, Fay & Chase, in press) and rather
than cite per family an exhaustive list of sources, substantial references can be found therein. Admittedly, this list is
also already out of date, as several new species will have been published in the period it took for this paper to come
to press, but it at least gives an informed estimate of there currently being 308,312 described, accepted, vascular plant
species of which 295,383 are angiosperms (monocots: 74,273, eudicots: 210,008), gymnosperms: 1,079, ferns: 10,560,
lycopods 1,290 (Table 1). We have not estimated numbers of mosses and algae, as our expertise does not lie in these
plant groups, but existing estimates of 9,000 species of liverworts (Marchantiophyta; Crandall-Stotler & Stotler 2000),
200–250 hornworts (Anthocerotophyta; Villarreal et al. 2010), 12,700 mosses (Bryophyta; Crosby et al. 1999; Cox et
al. 2014), ca 44,000 algae (Guiry 2012; although number is likely to be much higher), amounts to a total of ca 374,000
(~374,262) plant species worldwide. These numbers differ from earlier estimates by Chapman (2009), which has
substantially lower estimates, with 310,129 as the total number of plants species of which 281,621 are vascular plants.
CHRISTENHUSZ & BYNG
202 Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press
A higher estimate is by Pimm & Joppa (2015) which states that there are an estimated 450,000 species. We stress that
our counts are more accurate and reliable as they are actual counts of accepted, published species in each linear, based
on counts taken from monographic studies (removing synonymy bias), rather than informed estimates from group
specialists (which includes taxonomical bias for groups not covered by such specialists) or hypothetical numbers of
possible species (described and yet not discovered) calculated by using statistical models (e.g. Joppa et al. 2011a,
Pimm & Joppa 2015). Useful as these calculated estimates may be, it does not tell us the numbers of known species at
this present day, and predictions for the future are often unreliable.
TABLE 1. Estimated numbers of genera and species in a linear sequence of vascular plants (based on Christenhusz et al. 2011, Christenhusz
& Chase 2014 and APG IV 2016), with numbers of taxa taken or adapted from Byng (2014, 2015, in press), Christenhusz, Fay & Chase
(in press) and WCSP (2016). For sources see references cited in Byng (2015).
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Lycopodiales Lycopodiaceae 3 400
Isoëtales Isoëtaceae 1 140
Selaginellales Selaginellaceae 1 750
Total lycopods 3 5 1,290
Equisetales Equisetaceae 1 20
Ophioglossales Ophioglossaceae 4 80
Psilotales Psilotaceae 2 12
Marattiales Marattiaceae 6 135
Osmundales Osmundaceae 4 25
Hymenophyllales Hymenophyllaceae 2 650
Gleicheniales Gleicheniaceae 6 165
Gleicheniales Dipteridaceae 2 9
Gleicheniales Matoniaceae 2 4
Schizaeales Schizaeaceae 4 190
Salviniales Marsileaceae 3 65
Salviniales Salviniaceae 2 20
Cyatheales Cyatheaceae 12 700
Polypodiales Lonchitidaceae 1 2
Polypodiales Saccolomataceae 2 12
Polypodiales Cystodiaceae 1 1
Polypodiales Lindsaeaceae 6 220
Polypodiales Dennstaedtiaceae 10 240
Polypodiales Pteridaceae 45 1,150
Polypodiales Aspleniaceae 24 2,780
Polypodiales Polypodiaceae 76 4,080
Total ferns 21 215 10,560
Cycadales Cycadaceae 1 107
Cycadales Zamiaceae 9 230
Ginkgoales Ginkgoaceae 1 1
Welwitschiales Welwitschiaceae 1 1
...Continued on next page
NUMBER OF PLANTS SPECIES AND ANNUAL INCREASE Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press 203
TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Gnetales Gnetaceae 1 43
Ephedrales Ephedraceae 1 68
Pinales Pinaceae 11 228
Araucariales Araucariaceae 3 37
Araucariales Podocarpaceae 19 187
Cupressales Sciadopityaceae 1 1
Cupressales Cupressaceae 29 149
Cupressales Taxaceae 6 27
Total gymnosperms 12 83 1,079
Amborellales Amborellaceae 1 1
Nymphaeales Hydatellaceae 1 12
Nymphaeales Cabombaceae 2 6
Nymphaeales Nymphaeaceae 5 70
Austrobaileyales Austrobaileyaceae 1 1
Austrobaileyales Trimeniaceae 1 8
Austrobaileyales Schisandraceae 3 85
Canellales Canellaceae 5 23
Canellales Winteraceae 5 65
Piperales Saururaceae 4 6
Piperales Piperaceae 5 3,700
Piperales Aristolochiaceae 7 500
Magnoliales Myristicaceae 21 520
Magnoliales Magnoliaceae 2 294
Magnoliales Degeneriaceae 1 2
Magnoliales Himantandraceae 1 2
Magnoliales Eupomatiaceae 1 3
Magnoliales Annonaceae 105 2,500
Laurales Calycanthaceae 3 10
Laurales Siparunaceae 2 75
Laurales Gomortegaceae 1 1
Laurales Atherospermataceae 6 16
Laurales Hernandiaceae 5 58
Laurales Monimiaceae 24 217
Laurales Lauraceae 45 2,850
Chloranthales Chloranthaceae 4 77
Acorales Acoraceae 1 2
Alismatales Araceae 114 3,750
Alismatales Tofieldiaceae 4 28
...Continued on next page
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204 Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press
TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Alismatales Alismataceae 17 115
Alismatales Butomaceae 1 1
Alismatales Hydrocharitaceae 16 135
Alismatales Scheuchzeriaceae 1 1
Alismatales Aponogetonaceae 1 56
Alismatales Juncaginaceae 3 34
Alismatales Maundiaceae 1 1
Alismatales Zosteraceae 2 22
Alismatales Potamogetonaceae 6 110
Alismatales Posidoniaceae 1 9
Alismatales Ruppiaceae 1 8
Alismatales Cymodoceaceae 5 17
Petrosaviales Petrosaviaceae 2 4
Dioscoreales Nartheciaceae 5 35
Dioscoreales Burmanniaceae 8 99
Dioscoreales Dioscoreaceae 9 715
Pandanales Triuridaceae 9 55
Pandanales Velloziaceae 5 306
Pandanales Stemonaceae 4 37
Pandanales Cyclanthaceae 12 230
Pandanales Pandanaceae 5 982
Liliales Campynemataceae 2 4
Liliales Corsiaceae 3 27
Liliales Melanthiaceae 17 173
Liliales Petermanniaceae 1 1
Liliales Alstroemeriaceae 4 254
Liliales Colchicaceae 15 285
Liliales Philesiaceae 2 2
Liliales Ripogonaceae 1 6
Liliales Smilacaceae 1 255
Liliales Liliaceae 15 705
Asparagales Orchidaceae 736 28,000
Asparagales Boryaceae 2 12
Asparagales Blandfordiaceae 1 4
Asparagales Asteliaceae 3 37
Asparagales Lanariaceae 1 1
Asparagales Hypoxidaceae 4 159
Asparagales Doryanthaceae 1 2
...Continued on next page
NUMBER OF PLANTS SPECIES AND ANNUAL INCREASE Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press 205
TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Asparagales Ixioliriaceae 1 4
Asparagales Tecophilaeaceae 9 27
Asparagales Iridaceae 66 2,244
Asparagales Xeronemataceae 1 2
Asparagales Asphodelaceae 39 900
Asparagales Amaryllidaceae 75 1600
Asparagales Asparagaceae 114 2900
Arecales Dasypogonaceae 4 16
Arecales Arecaceae 181 2,600
Commelinales Hanguanaceae 1 12
Commelinales Commelinaceae 41 731
Commelinales Philydraceae 3 6
Commelinales Pontederiaceae 6 34
Commelinales Haemodoraceae 14 102
Zingiberales Strelitziaceae 3 7
Zingiberales Lowiaceae 1 18
Zingiberales Heliconiaceae 1 194
Zingiberales Musaceae 3 91
Zingiberales Cannaceae 1 10
Zingiberales Marantaceae 29 570
Zingiberales Costaceae 7 143
Zingiberales Zingiberaceae 50 1,600
Poales Typhaceae 2 51
Poales Bromeliaceae 51 3,475
Poales Rapateaceae 16 94
Poales Xyridaceae 5 399
Poales Eriocaulaceae 7 1,207
Poales Mayacaceae 1 6
Poales Thurniaceae 2 4
Poales Juncaceae 8 464
Poales Cyperaceae 90 5,500
Poales Restionaceae 51 572
Poales Flagellariaceae 1 4
Poales Joinvilleaceae 1 4
Poales Ecdeiocoleaceae 2 3
Poales Poaceae 780 12,000
Ceratophyllales Ceratophyllaceae 1 4
Ranunculales Eupteleaceae 1 2
...Continued on next page
CHRISTENHUSZ & BYNG
206 Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press
TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Ranunculales Papaveraceae 42 775
Ranunculales Circaeasteraceae 2 2
Ranunculales Lardizabalaceae 7 40
Ranunculales Menispermaceae 68 440
Ranunculales Berberidaceae 14 700
Ranunculales Ranunculaceae 43 2,346
Proteales Sabiaceae 3 66
Proteales Nelumbonaceae 1 3
Proteales Platanaceae 1 8
Proteales Proteaceae 83 1660
Trochodendrales Trochodendraceae 2 2
Buxales Buxaceae 6 123
Gunnerales Myrothamnaceae 1 2
Gunnerales Gunneraceae 1 63
Dilleniales Dilleniaceae 11 430
Saxifragales Peridiscaceae 4 12
Saxifragales Paeoniaceae 1 33
Saxifragales Altingiaceae 1 15
Saxifragales Hamamelidaceae 26 86
Saxifragales Cercidiphyllaceae 1 2
Saxifragales Daphniphyllaceae 1 30
Saxifragales Iteaceae 2 18
Saxifragales Grossulariaceae 1 150
Saxifragales Saxifragaceae 33 640
Saxifragales Crassulaceae 35 1,400
Saxifragales Aphanopetalaceae 1 2
Saxifragales Tetracarpaeaceae 1 1
Saxifragales Penthoraceae 1 2
Saxifragales Haloragaceae 9 145
Saxifragales or Rosales Cynomoriaceae 1 2
Vitales Vitaceae 14 910
Zygophyllales Krameriaceae 1 18
Zygophyllales Zygophyllaceae 22 285
Fabales Quillajaceae 1 3
Fabales Fabaceae 751 19,500
Fabales Surianaceae 5 8
Fabales Polygalaceae 21 900
Rosales Rosaceae 91 2,950
...Continued on next page
NUMBER OF PLANTS SPECIES AND ANNUAL INCREASE Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press 207
TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Rosales Barbeyaceae 1 1
Rosales Dirachmaceae 1 2
Rosales Elaeagnaceae 3 60
Rosales Rhamnaceae 55 950
Rosales Ulmaceae 7 45
Rosales Cannabaceae 8 100
Rosales Moraceae 38 1,180
Rosales Urticaceae 53 2625
Fagales Nothofagaceae 1 43
Fagales Fagaceae 8 927
Fagales Myricaceae 3 57
Fagales Juglandaceae 9 50
Fagales Casuarinaceae 4 91
Fagales Ticodendraceae 1 1
Fagales Betulaceae 6 167
Cucurbitales Apodanthaceae 2 10
Cucurbitales Anisophylleaceae 4 71
Cucurbitales Corynocarpaceae 1 5
Cucurbitales Coriariaceae 1 14
Cucurbitales Cucurbitaceae 95 965
Cucurbitales Tetramelaceae 2 2
Cucurbitales Datiscaceae 1 3
Cucurbitales Begoniaceae 2 1,825
Celastrales Lepidobotryaceae 2 2
Celastrales Celastraceae 96 1,350
Oxalidales Huaceae 2 4
Oxalidales Connaraceae 12 180
Oxalidales Oxalidaceae 5 570
Oxalidales Cunoniaceae 27 330
Oxalidales Elaeocarpaceae 12 615
Oxalidales Cephalotaceae 1 1
Oxalidales Brunelliaceae 1 60
Malpighiales Pandaceae 3 17
Malpighiales Irvingiaceae 3 13
Malpighiales Ctenolophonaceae 1 2
Malpighiales Rhizophoraceae 15 147
Malpighiales Erythroxylaceae 4 242
Malpighiales Ochnaceae 32 550
...Continued on next page
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TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Malpighiales Bonnetiaceae 3 35
Malpighiales Clusiaceae 13 750
Malpighiales Calophyllaceae 14 475
Malpighiales Podostemaceae 46 300
Malpighiales Hypericaceae 6 590
Malpighiales Caryocaraceae 2 26
Malpighiales Lophopyxidaceae 1 1
Malpighiales Putranjivaceae 2 216
Malpighiales Centroplacaceae 2 6
Malpighiales Elatinaceae 2 35
Malpighiales Malpighiaceae 73 1,315
Malpighiales Balanopaceae 1 9
Malpighiales Trigoniaceae 5 28
Malpighiales Dichapetalaceae 3 170
Malpighiales Euphroniaceae 1 3
Malpighiales Chrysobalanaceae 18 533
Malpighiales Humiriaceae 8 56
Malpighiales Achariaceae 32 155
Malpighiales Violaceae 31 980
Malpighiales Goupiaceae 1 2
Malpighiales Passifloraceae 29 980
Malpighiales Lacistemataceae 2 14
Malpighiales Salicaceae 56 1,220
Malpighiales Peraceae 5 127
Malpighiales Rafflesiaceae 3 25
Malpighiales Euphorbiaceae 209 6,252
Malpighiales Linaceae 10 255
Malpighiales Ixonanthaceae 3 17
Malpighiales Picrodendraceae 25 96
Malpighiales Phyllanthaceae 57 2,050
Geraniales Geraniaceae 5 830
Geraniales Francoaceae 8 37
Myrtales Combretaceae 10 530
Myrtales Lythraceae 27 620
Myrtales Onagraceae 22 656
Myrtales Vochysiaceae 7 217
Myrtales Myrtaceae 132 5,950
Myrtales Melastomataceae 165 5,115
...Continued on next page
NUMBER OF PLANTS SPECIES AND ANNUAL INCREASE Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press 209
TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Myrtales Crypteroniaceae 3 13
Myrtales Alzateaceae 1 1
Myrtales Penaeaceae 9 32
Crossosomatales Aphloiaceae 1 1
Crossosomatales Geissolomataceae 1 1
Crossosomatales Strasburgeriaceae 2 2
Crossosomatales Staphyleaceae 2 45
Crossosomatales Guamatelaceae 1 1
Crossosomatales Stachyuraceae 1 8
Crossosomatales Crossosomataceae 4 10
Picramniales Picramniaceae 3 49
Sapindales Biebersteiniaceae 1 4
Sapindales Nitrariaceae 3 19
Sapindales Kirkiaceae 1 6
Sapindales Burseraceae 19 615
Sapindales Anacardiaceae 83 860
Sapindales Sapindaceae 142 1,860
Sapindales Rutaceae 148 2,070
Sapindales Simaroubaceae 22 108
Sapindales Meliaceae 53 600
Huerteales Gerrardinaceae 1 2
Huerteales Petenaeaceae 1 1
Huerteales Tapisciaceae 2 6
Huerteales Dipentodontaceae 2 20
Malvales Cytinaceae 2 10
Malvales Muntingiaceae 3 3
Malvales Neuradaceae 3 10
Malvales Malvaceae 244 4,225
Malvales Sphaerosepalaceae 2 18
Malvales Thymelaeaceae 46 913
Malvales Bixaceae 4 23
Malvales Cistaceae 9 170
Malvales Sarcolaenaceae 10 71
Malvales Dipterocarpaceae 16 695
Brassicales Akaniaceae 2 2
Brassicales Tropaeolaceae 1 94
Brassicales Moringaceae 1 13
Brassicales Caricaceae 6 35
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TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Brassicales Limnanthaceae 2 8
Brassicales Setchellanthaceae 1 1
Brassicales Koeberliniaceae 1 2
Brassicales Bataceae 1 2
Brassicales Salvadoraceae 3 11
Brassicales Emblingiaceae 1 1
Brassicales Tovariaceae 1 2
Brassicales Pentadiplandraceae 1 1
Brassicales Gyrostemonaceae 4 20
Brassicales Resedaceae 12 107
Brassicales Capparaceae 30 324
Brassicales Cleomaceae 1 346
Brassicales Brassicaceae 328 3,628
Berberidopsidales Aextoxicaceae 1 1
Berberidopsidales Berberidopsidaceae 2 3
Santalales Olacaceae 29 180
Santalales Opiliaceae 11 33
Santalales Balanophoraceae 17 44
Santalales Santalaceae 43 1,000
Santalales Misodendraceae 1 8
Santalales Schoepfiaceae 3 58
Santalales Loranthaceae 76 1,050
Caryophyllales Frankeniaceae 1 90
Caryophyllales Tamaricaceae 4 78
Caryophyllales Plumbaginaceae 30 725
Caryophyllales Polygonaceae 48 1,200
Caryophyllales Droseraceae 3 180
Caryophyllales Nepenthaceae 1 150
Caryophyllales Drosophyllaceae 1 1
Caryophyllales Dioncophyllaceae 3 3
Caryophyllales Ancistrocladaceae 1 21
Caryophyllales Rhabdodendraceae 1 3
Caryophyllales Simmondsiaceae 1 1
Caryophyllales Physenaceae 1 2
Caryophyllales Asteropeiaceae 1 8
Caryophyllales Macarthuriaceae 1 10
Caryophyllales Microteaceae 1 9
Caryophyllales Caryophyllaceae 81 2,625
...Continued on next page
NUMBER OF PLANTS SPECIES AND ANNUAL INCREASE Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press 211
TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Caryophyllales Achatocarpaceae 2 11
Caryophyllales Amaranthaceae 165 2,040
Caryophyllales Stegnospermataceae 1 4
Caryophyllales Limeaceae 1 21
Caryophyllales Lophiocarpaceae 2 6
Caryophyllales Kewaceae 1 8
Caryophyllales Barbeuiaceae 1 1
Caryophyllales Gisekiaceae 1 8
Caryophyllales Aizoaceae 121 1,900
Caryophyllales Phytolaccaceae 5 33
Caryophyllales Petiveriaceae 9 20
Caryophyllales Sarcobataceae 1 2
Caryophyllales Nyctaginaceae 31 400
Caryophyllales Molluginaceae 9 80
Caryophyllales Montiaceae 14 230
Caryophyllales Didiereaceae 7 22
Caryophyllales Basellaceae 4 19
Caryophyllales Halophytaceae 1 1
Caryophyllales Talinaceae 2 28
Caryophyllales Portulacaceae 1 115
Caryophyllales Anacampserotaceae 3 36
Caryophyllales Cactaceae 127 1750
Cornales Nyssaceae 5 37
Cornales Hydrostachyaceae 1 22
Cornales Hydrangeaceae 9 223
Cornales Loasaceae 20 308
Cornales Curtisiaceae 1 1
Cornales Grubbiaceae 1 3
Cornales Cornaceae 2 85
Ericales Balsaminaceae 2 1,000
Ericales Marcgraviaceae 7 120
Ericales Tetrameristaceae 3 5
Ericales Fouquieriaceae 1 11
Ericales Polemoniaceae 26 350
Ericales Lecythidaceae 25 355
Ericales Sladeniaceae 2 3
Ericales Pentaphylacaceae 12 330
Ericales Sapotaceae 54 1,273
...Continued on next page
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TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Ericales Ebenaceae 4 800
Ericales Primulaceae 53 2,790
Ericales Theaceae 9 240
Ericales Symplocaceae 2 260
Ericales Diapensiaceae 5 12
Ericales Styracaceae 11 160
Ericales Sarraceniaceae 3 34
Ericales Roridulaceae 1 2
Ericales Actinidiaceae 3 360
Ericales Clethraceae 2 75
Ericales Cyrillaceae 2 2
Ericales Ericaceae 124 4,250
Ericales Mitrastemonaceae 1 2
Icacinales Oncothecaceae 1 2
Icacinales Icacinaceae 25 165
Metteniusales Metteniusaceae 11 50
Garryales Eucommiaceae 1 1
Garryales Garryaceae 2 25
Gentianales Rubiaceae 590 13,620
Gentianales Gentianaceae 102 1735
Gentianales Loganiaceae 15 390
Gentianales Gelsemiaceae 3 11
Gentianales Apocynaceae 366 5,100
Gentianales Boraginaceae 135 2,535
Vahliales Vahliaceae 1 8
Solanales Convolvulaceae 53 1,660
Solanales Solanaceae 100 2,600
Solanales Montiniaceae 3 5
Solanales Sphenocleaceae 1 2
Solanales Hydroleaceae 1 12
Lamiales Plocospermataceae 1 1
Lamiales Carlemanniaceae 2 5
Lamiales Oleaceae 26 790
Lamiales Tetrachondraceae 2 3
Lamiales Calceolariaceae 2 271
Lamiales Gesneriaceae 152 3,540
Lamiales Plantaginaceae 94 1,900
Lamiales Scrophulariaceae 62 1,830
...Continued on next page
NUMBER OF PLANTS SPECIES AND ANNUAL INCREASE Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press 213
TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Lamiales Stilbaceae 8 40
Lamiales Linderniaceae 23 220
Lamiales Byblidaceae 1 7
Lamiales Martyniaceae 5 16
Lamiales Pedaliaceae 13 75
Lamiales Acanthaceae 210 4,000
Lamiales Bignoniaceae 82 870
Lamiales Lentibulariaceae 3 316
Lamiales Schlegeliaceae 4 37
Lamiales Thomandersiaceae 1 6
Lamiales Verbenaceae 32 1,000
Lamiales Lamiaceae 241 7530
Lamiales Mazaceae 3 33
Lamiales Phrymaceae 13 186
Lamiales Paulowniaceae 3 8
Lamiales Orobanchaceae 98 1,960
Aquifoliales Stemonuraceae 12 90
Aquifoliales Cardiopteridaceae 5 43
Aquifoliales Phyllonomaceae 1 4
Aquifoliales Helwingiaceae 1 4
Aquifoliales Aquifoliaceae 1 500
Asterales Rousseaceae 4 6
Asterales Campanulaceae 81 2,300
Asterales Pentaphragmataceae 1 30
Asterales Stylidiaceae 6 245
Asterales Alseuosmiaceae 5 13
Asterales Phellinaceae 1 12
Asterales Argophyllaceae 2 21
Asterales Menyanthaceae 6 60
Asterales Goodeniaceae 12 440
Asterales Calyceraceae 4 60
Asterales Asteraceae 1,623 24,700
Escalloniales Escalloniaceae 7 103
Bruniales Columelliaceae 2 8
Bruniales Bruniaceae 6 81
Paracryphiales Paracryphiaceae 3 36
Dipsacales Adoxaceae 5 225
Dipsacales Caprifoliaceae 28 825
...Continued on next page
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TABLE 1. (Continued)
Order Family Approximate no of genera Approximate no of species
Apiales Pennantiaceae 1 4
Apiales Torricelliaceae 3 10
Apiales Griseliniaceae 1 7
Apiales Pittosporaceae 7 245
Apiales Araliaceae 43 1,650
Apiales Myodocarpaceae 2 15
Apiales Apiaceae 442 3,575
Total angiosperms 416 13,164 295,383
Total vascular plants 452 13,467 308,312
The largest vascular plant families are Orchidaceae (ca 736 genera, ca 28,000 species; Chase et al. 2015) and
Asteraceae (ca 1,623 genera, ca 24,700 species; e.g. Funk et al. 2009), the difference showing that the generic
taxonomy of Asteraceae appears to need further revision as the rate of species per genus is higher in Orchidaceae than
in Asteraceae, which has fewer species but more than twice the number of genera, which seems highly inflated.
Since Linnaeus (1753) over 250,000 plant species have been described (Payne 2016) and the number of species
is increasing every day, particularly in large families like Orchidaceae, Asteraceae and Fabaceae. However, the rate
of new species discovery and publication has not always been the same. During ages of exploration in the 18th and
19th Centuries, spikes in numbers of published new species names can be observed. Peaks in species description are
particularly noticeable in the periods between 1830–1850 and 1890–1920, when per decade over 35,000 species names
were proposed (Lindon et al. 2015; note that this data includes new species, new names and new combinations).
These corresponded with major taxonomic works (e.g. Candolle 1824–1873, Steudel 1840–1841, Bentham & Hooker
1862–1883, Kuntze 1891–1898) or major regional floristic studies of newly explored areas (e.g. Siebold & Zuccarini
1837–1870, Martius 1840–1906, Boissier 1843–1859, Miquel 1855–1859), when species delimitation became more
closely scrutinised. Currently the numbers of new species published per decade (excluding new combinations) has
stabilised around 20,000 per decade (Lindon et al. 2015). An average of ca 2,000 new species are now published
annually, although the last years there seems to be a slight decline and we can only hope that this is not a continuing
trend (Fig. 1). It should be noted that Phytotaxa contributed over a quarter of the total number of species published
in 2015 (Fig 1), a major increase in the input of this journal to plant taxonomy, making it currently the largest journal
in systematic botany in the world (Zhang et al. 2014). The main countries that yield the greatest numbers of new
species are Australia, Brazil, China and New Guinea, although many smaller African, American, Pacific and Central
and tropical Asian countries also contribute substantial numbers, which is reflected in the increase in new species
published by scientists from biodiverse BRIC countries, which have invested in their taxonomic capacity, shifting
away from European and North American taxonomists as main descriptors of taxonomic novelties (Zhang et al. 2014).
A recent study has shown that most new species are probably to be found in the world’s biodiversity hotspots (Joppa
et al. 2011b). Large parts of the world are still in need of further biological exploration, particularly these designated
biodiversity hotspots, but large areas not designated as such, particularly in the tropics and subtropics are still greatly
in need of field study as well. The specific dynamics of species exploration, description, extinction rates (estimated
to be 1000 to 10,000 times the background rate) and numbers of scientists involved in this work is detailed by the
exploratory analyses of Pimm & Joppa (2015).
The age of large general botanical explorations appears to be over, even though many new species are still to be
discovered. It seems that most new species are now discovered among existing collections in herbaria (Bebber et al.
2010), but as taxonomy is increasingly under financial pressure, resulting in a reduced number of taxonomists in big
natural history institutions being paid by core funding to carry out descriptive, fundamental sciences. Fundamental
research, needed to build upon applied studies which are generally well-funded, are not receiving the recognition
among funding bodies that is required to complete the task of documenting and describing the natural diversity of our
planet, plants in particular. It seems that discovery of extinct animals (particularly dinosaurs) receive more attention
by the media and leading scientific journals than a new species of plant or animal that is still living among us. Do we
really need species to become extinct before we value their fundamental description and associated traits?
NUMBER OF PLANTS SPECIES AND ANNUAL INCREASE Phytotaxa 261 (3) © 2016 Magnolia Press 215
FIGURE 1. Increase in numbers of new vascular plant species published during the last two decades, based on data from the International
Plant Name Index (IPNI 2016; www.ipni.org, accessed 6 March 2016). The actual numbers may possibly be somewhat higher as these
numbers exclude hybrid taxa (which may be considered species in some cases) and taxa known at subspecific ranks that were elevated to
species. On the other hand it includes species that were published but are now no longer accepted, which may even the numbers out. The
years 2015 and 2016 were not yet completely indexed at this time and hence their final numbers will be higher.
It is important to estimate the numbers of known species, as we are dealing with an unprecedented rate of extinction.
Since Linnaeus aimed to document all species of plants in 1753, the starting date of nomenclatural taxonomy of
vascular plants, 139 described plant species are now known to have become extinct or only occur in cultivation
(categories EX and EW of IUCN 2015), although many may have disappeared without ever having been discovered
or further categorised as such (see Pimm & Joppa 2015 for further information on the current extinction rate of plant
species). Taxonomy still has a massive task to undertake to describe and classify new species and Phytotaxa has played
a major role in accelerating the publication of this species discovery, with the publication of 1750 new species since its
foundation in 2009 (Christenhusz et al. 2009, Christenhusz et al. 2011, Zhang et al. 2014).
Acknowledgments
We thank the IPNI team at RBG Kew, Irina Belyaeva, Rafaël Govaerts, Helen Hartley and Heather Lindon for their
invaluable help on statistics of published species. We thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments
and criticism that improved this editorial.
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Plants of the World is the first book to systematically explore every vascular plant family on earth--more than four hundred and fifty of them--organized in a modern phylogenetic order. Detailed entries for each family include descriptions, distribution, evolutionary relationships, and fascinating information on economic uses of plants and etymology of their names. All entries are also copiously illustrated in full color with more than 2,500 stunning photographs. A collaboration among three celebrated botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Plants of the World is authoritative, comprehensive, and beautiful. Covering everything from ferns to angiosperms, it will be an essential resource for practicing botanists, horticulturists, and nascent green thumbs alike.
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