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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 20(3) December 2011 - February 2012, p 25-26

Australian Plant Census: November 2011 update

Brendan Lepschi and Anna Monro
Australian National Herbarium, Canberra. Email: Brendan.Lepschi@csiro.au and Anna.Monro@csiro.au

This grass Austrodanthonia carphoides is now called Rytidosperma carphoides. Photo: M. Fagg.

This grass Austrodanthonia carphoides is now called Rytidosperma carphoides. All other species of Austrodanthonia as well as species of Joycea and Notodanthonia have also been transferred to the genus Rytidosperma. Photo: M. Fagg.

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). In this article we describe progress since our last update (Lepschi and Monro 2009).

First pass almost complete

The first pass of the Census is nearing completion, with only a handful of families left to be treated for the initial phase of the project. Groups currently under consideration by the Australian Plant Census Working Group include some of the larger vascular plant families in the Australian flora. These include Apiaceae, Araliaceae, Cyperaceae, Ericaceae (in the broad sense, including Epacridaceae) and Fabaceae (Faboideae). In addition, compilation of the last two remaining untreated groups, Malvaceae (also in the broad sense, including Bombacaceae, Sterculiaceae and Tiliaceae) and Orchidaceae, is also well underway. Completion of these groups and presentation of final data via the Australian Plant Census web interface (www.chah.gov.au/apc/) is anticipated by May 2012.

Recently treated families

Other families recently treated for the Census include Asteraceae, Plantaginaceae (including Myoporaceae), Rubiaceae, Scrophulariaceae and Stylidiaceae. These groups are available as PDFs at <www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/families-treated.html>, and are currently being entered into the Census database.

Plant classification at family level and above

In addition to genus and species-level taxonomy, the Census has developed an agreed classification of Australian vascular plants at and above the level of family. This project was begun by Terri Weese in mid-2008, and completed by Meredith Cosgrove.

The work was prompted by recent changes in higher-level classification by various researchers around the world, in particular the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (www.mobot.org/mobot/research/apweb/). The agreed classification largely follows the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009) system but with some differences preferred by the Census Working Group. These include the recognition of Chenopodiaceae as a distinct family rather than part of an expanded Amaranthaceae.

Other changes to familiar plant families in Australia include the sinking of Epacridaceae into an expanded Ericaceae, considerable recircumscription of Scrophulariaceae and related families (e.g. a much expanded Plantaginaceae, including Myoporaceae) and changes within the petaloid monocotyledon families (see also Purdie 2010). These changes and an overview of the Census process as a model for consensus-based taxonomic decision-making were presented in a poster displayed at the eighteenth International Botanical Congress held in Melbourne in July 2011.

Keeping the Census up-to-date

As completion of the first pass of the Census draws closer, the emphasis is shifting towards keeping information already entered up-to-date, in line with current taxonomic research. One such example is the recent revision of the danthonioid grasses by Linder et al. (2010), which has seen the transfer of all species of Austrodanthonia, Joycea and Notodanthonia to a broadly circumscribed genus Rytidosperma. A similar example is the sinking of the small Western Australian endemic gymnosperm genus Actinostrobus into Callitris, following Piggin and Bruhl (2010). These changes have been accepted by all major Australian herbaria, and are reflected in the Census.

The Census team in Canberra

The Australian Plant Census/Australian Plant Names Index (APNI) team reached its highest ever staffing levels this year, thanks to some funding from the Atlas of Living Australia. These additional staff boosted the outputs of the project in several areas. Gillian Towler, Phillip Kodela and Meredith Cosgrove have now finished their contracts with us. Gill undertook data entry for several Census lists, and added much additional data to APNI, while Phillip compiled several larger families for the Census and added many secondary references to APNI.

In addition to the higher-level taxonomy, Meredith compiled Census lists for a number of ‘troublesome’ families, including Orchidaceae. She has now moved on to work with the Australian Biological Resources Study on the Australian Faunal Directory. Meredith will also work part-time with the Integrated Botanical Information System (IBIS) team on improving the APNI and Australian Plant Census interfaces.

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


Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161 (2): 105–21.

Lepschi, B. and Monro, A. (2009). Australian Plant Census: August 2009 update. Australasian Plant Conservation 18(2): 27.

Linder, H.P., Baeza, M., Barker, N.P., Galley, C., Humphreys, A.M., Lloyd, K.M., Orlovich, D.A., Pirie, M.D., Simon, B.K., Walsh, N. and Verboom, G.A. (2010). A generic classification of the Danthonioideae (Poaceae). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 97(3): 356–8.

Piggin, J.M. and Bruhl, J.J. (2010). Phylogeny reconstruction of Callitris Vent. (Cupressaceae) and its allies leads to inclusion of Actinostrobus within Callitris Australian Systematic Botany 23: 69–93.

Purdie, R. (2010). What family does this plant belong to now? Australasian Plant Conservation 19(2): 31–2.