Scientists Slash Number of World's Plants by 600,000

Turns out that many plants have multiple names—some have hundreds
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2010 10:55 AM CDT
Common tiger butterflies visit flowers in bloom at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010.   (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)
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(Newser) – A comprehensive scientific study will trim some 600,000 duplicates from the world’s list of flowering plants, the Guardian reports. After centuries of scientists naming “new” plants that had already been discovered, we currently count the number of plant species at about 1 million—but a more realistic number is 400,000, a joint American-British study team says.

"On average, one plant might have between two and three names,” a project partner says, which makes research difficult. And useful plants tend to have more names—the tomato has 790, and the oak 600. The researchers found that by searching for only one name of common plants, scientists sometimes missed out on 80% of available literature. The project will determine an accepted common name for each species and list its variations.
(Read more plants stories.)

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