Plants are essential to human wellbeing, supporting important ecosystem services that are critical components of Natural Capital. They supply food, medicine, fibre, fuel and building materials, and provide a broad spectrum of benefits to society, offering vital solutions to some of the world’s major challenges, including bioenergy, human and animal health, nutrition, microbial resistance, industrial biotechnology, and synthetic biology.
In 2016, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew published the first State of the World's Plants report, with key statistics on plants. One of its highlights was the compilation of a list of 31,128 plant species with a documented human use from ten datasets (Diazgranados et al. 2018; RBG Kew 2016). Here, we added the datasets from the Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS version 8.2), the Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA) and the Useful Plants of New Guinea, for a total of 13 large datasets.
The resulting checklist contains 40,292 species, including nine non-plant taxa retained because they are frequently misidentified as plants (e.g. nostoc, forkweed, brown algae). The checklist is classified into three kingdoms (Plantae with 40,283 species, Chromista with eight species, and Bacteria with one species), six divisions/phyla, 14 classes, 101 orders, 433 families and 6,737 genera.
The nomenclature of the species follows the International Plant Names Index (IPNI: 40,239 names with Life Sciences Identifier - LSID), with a few exceptions for taxa not present in it, for which AlgaeBase (30 names) and Tropicos (23 names) were used. The family classification follows the World Checklist of Vascular Plants (v.2.0) and Plants of the World Online (POWO). For higher taxonomy, the taxonomic backbone of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) was used.
The classification of uses is based on a modified version of the Economic Botany Data Collections Standard with ten Level 1 categories: medicines (26,662 species), materials (13,663), environmental uses (8,983), human food (7,039), gene sources (5,212), animal food (4,433), poisons (3,013) social uses (2,596), fuels (2,529) and invertebrate food (1,041). The five most diverse families are Fabaceae (3,547 species), Asteraceae (2,367), Poaceae (2,024), Rubiaceae (1,352), and Euphorbiaceae (1,120). With at least 328 species with reported uses, Solanum is the richest genus, followed by Ficus (308), Euphorbia (287), Digitaria (246) and Syzygium (193). Ninety-one families and 2,790 genera have only one species reported, and 70 species have use reports in all ten categories.
The final checklist includes the following information: kingdoms, divisions/phyla, classes, orders, families, genera and species names (with publication authors); LSID numbers; categories of use reported for each species; if considered a crop wild relative; and main sources for the information for most cases.
Diazgranados, M., Allkin, B., Black N., Cámara-Leret, R., Canteiro C., Carretero J., Eastwood R., Hargreaves S., Hudson A., Milliken W., Nesbitt, M., Ondo, I., Patmore, K., Pironon, S., Turner, R., Ulian, T. (2020). World Checklist of Useful Plant Species. Produced by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity.