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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 18(2) Setember - November 2009, p 27

Australian Plant Census: August 2009 update

Brendan Lepschi and Anna Monro
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Canberra, ACT. Email: Brendan.Lepschi@csiro.au and Anna.Monro@csiro.au

The Australian Plant Census is a project aimed at providing an up-to-date list of currently accepted names for the Australian vascular flora, both native and introduced (see Australasian Plant Conservation 16(1): 20).

New families treated

Progress on the project has continued, with a number of additional families now treated, including the large and diverse Rutaceae. Many of the genera in this family have been the subject of recent taxonomic work, often with significant taxonomic and nomenclatural changes as a result. For example, three revisionary treatments have been published for Zieria since 2002, with numerous new taxa and name changes. Myriad informal names have been applied to Zieria species over decades, with phrase names coined for species A–Q and 1–15. However, the same phrase name was often used for different entities in different states or regions. For example, ‘Zieria species 1’ referred to three taxa: Z. verrucosa in Queensland, Z. baeuerlenii in New South Wales and Z. oreocaena in Victoria. The Census provides a single data source covering all the changes and new information for this family.

Another important group recently treated is the Amaranthaceae, in particular Ptilotus. Existing Ptilotus taxonomy, based on the work of Gerhard Benl, was characterised by numerous infraspecific taxa (i.e. subspecies, varieties and forms) often at multiple ranks within a species. Recent revisions by Australian workers have greatly simplified the taxonomy of the genus, with, in some cases, up to eight infraspecific names being subsumed into a single species.

The non-eucalyptoid Myrtaceae are also currently being treated for the Census with numerous generic realignments reflected, such as the much reduced circumscription of Babingtonia, and the recognition of new genera, including Kardomia and Sannantha. Also reflected is the considerable activity of Western Australian botanists on Baeckea and its relatives, with numerous new and resurrected species and genera in this group.

The Poaceae is also nearing completion. Some large and important genera have been treated, including Aristida, Austrodanthonia and its allies, Austrostipa, Poa and Triodia, as well as numerous weedy genera such as Avena, Bromus and Vulpia.

Reconciling names in northern Australia

The Census was bolstered by a recent grant from the Heritage Division of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, aimed at reconciling taxonomic and nomenclatural issues for various taxa in conservation reserves across northern Australia. Families of particular interest to the Department included the Euphorbiaceae and Lentibulariaceae. While the Lentibulariaceae (comprising only the Bladderwort genus Utricularia) was relatively straightforward, the euphorbs have proved quite the opposite. We have nearly completed compilation of the Euphorbiaceae, which will include such widespread genera as Bertya, Beyeria, Chamaesyce, Euphorbia, Phyllanthus, Ricinocarpos and Sauropus.

Family planning

Another component to the Census project is the ‘Family Planning’ exercise, covering development of an agreed list and arrangement of taxa at the family level and above. This project commenced in mid-2008, with Terri Weese compiling agreed family circumscriptions for all flowering plants and gymnosperms. Meredith Cosgrove has recently taken over the Family Planning role, following Terri’s move to another position within CSIRO, and has compiled family circumscriptions for the pteridophytes (ferns) and their allies. Meredith is also developing a full classification from Kingdom to Family level, including all relevant intermediate ranks.

Where to get the latest information

Of the groups mentioned above, data for the Amaranthaceae, Lentibulariaceae, Rutaceae and part of the Poaceae (tribes Arundineae, Amphipogoneae, Danthonieae, Aristideae, Eriachneae, Pappophoreae, Triodieae and Cynodonteae) are available via the Australian Plant Census search interface at www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/index.html.

Non-eucalyptoid Myrtaceae and Poaceae tribes Phareae, Nardeae, Stipeae, Meliceae, Brachypodieae, Bromeae, Triticeae, Aveneae, Poeae, Bambuseae, Oryzeae and Ehrharteae are available as PDFs at www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/families-treated.html.

A full listing of all other families and groups treated for the Census is available at www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/index.html. For other groups (e.g. Euphorbiaceae and the remaining tribes of Poaceae), including higher-level classification, data is not yet available electronically. The list of families treated for the Census (see link above) is updated regularly and these groups will be added as soon as the data is uploaded—keep checking for progress.

As always, the Australian Plant Census team welcomes feedback, queries and comments—you can contact us at Brendan.Lepschi@csiro.au and Anna.Monro@csiro.au.