The International Plant Names Index and BHL

Plants and the people who name them

At the end of the twentieth century, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, The Harvard University Herbaria, and The Australian National Herbarium began collaboration on an ambitious project—to create an online index of names for all of the world’s vascular plants.

By combining the data in the nomenclatural indices of these three institutions—namely Index Kewensis, the Gray Card Index, and the Australian Plant Names Index—the collaboration created the International Plant Names Index (IPNI). Hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, today the database includes over 1.6 million records. As part of the provided nomenclatural information, IPNI includes bibliographic details linked to scanned literature in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) and links to taxonomic data through the Plants of the World Online.

Not surprisingly, given its role as a source of scanned literature for the Index, BHL is a vital resource for those working to build and maintain the IPNI database.

“I started working for the International Plant Names Index in 2013,” says Heather Lindon, Plant and Fungal Names Editor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . “I need to be able to look up protologues—the original place of publication of plant names and their descriptions. If the earliest place of publication isn’t known, we can use the name search in BHL to try to find it. Since our modern naming system dates to 1753, BHL has a lot of relevant literature for my work. Also, the rules of the International Code of Nomenclature that govern plant names apply to names published in the past, so consulting older works is still relevant for names being published today.”

Read more at the Biodiversity Heritage Library (Grace Costantino)

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