9 facts about the new State of the World’s Plants report

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has recently released a fascinating annual review of the global status of plants. We’ve highlighted the most important points. 

Dendrobium cynthiae is one of the new orchid species discovered in 2015. Found in the US, its origins are unknown. © Steve Beckendorf
Dendrobium cynthiae is one of the new orchid species discovered in 2015. Found in the US, its origins are unknown. © Steve Beckendorf

1 A total of 391,000 vascular plants and 369,000 flowering plants are known to science. More than 2,000 new vascular plants were identified last year.

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2 The top three countries identifying new species of plants since 1990 are Australia, Brazil and China.

3 Brazil is also a record breaker at acquiring knowledge of its flora. More than 32,000 seed plants known to science were discovered in that country. 

4 Gilbertiodendron maximum, the largest and heaviest new species added to the list in 2015, weighs 105 tonnes and grows up to 45m tall. This legume is Critically Endangered and endemic to Gabon.

5 The whole genome sequence of 139 vascular plants is now available online. The most recent update of the plant tree of life consists of 416 families grouped in 64 orders.

6 31,128 plant species have a documented use – 5,538 are part of our diet, 17,810 have medicinal properties, 1,621 can be utilised as fuel and 2,503 are poisonous.

7 Nearly 5,000 plant species have been documented as invasive. The cost of these invasive plants represents 5 per cent of the world economy and £1.7 billion to the British economy every year.

8 According to the IUCN, 1/5 of all plant species are currently threatened with extinction and 1/3 of the threats are due to agricultural activities such as intensification of crop farming. 

9 Endangered plant species are classified in 3 appendixes under CITES.

  • > 300 species are considered as most endangered
  • > 30,000 are in a fragile position
  • > 10 need special international cooperation to avoid their over-exploitation

Read the full State of the World’s Plants report

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