Plants of the World Online (POWO), an online portal from Kew, is sharing known data on more than 1 million plants so that it can be used for research purposes, and to inform decisions about conservation, land use, policy and practice.
A work-in-progress project that launched in 2017 with the aim to bring Kew’s science data online by 2020 now currently features data on 1,134,000 global plant names, 94,200 detailed descriptions, and 207,800 images.
POWO turns more than 250 years of botanical knowledge into an open and accessible online global resource.
When the global plant online resource was launched initially launched it covered the Floras of Tropical West, East and southern Africa and monocotyledons or monocots. Over the years, additional data has been added and further links made to other sources, including the collections at Kew from the Library, Art and Archives, and Horticulture.
POWO draws together Kew’s regional floras and monographs, alongside digital images from the collections. The portal has been designed to maximise accessibility and enables the dissemination of plant information to its users via a mobile, tablet or desktop computer.
With over 8.5 million items, Kew houses the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world in its Victorian Herbarium and Fungarium in West London. Kew Gardens represents over 95% of known flowering plant species and more than 60% of known fungal species and yet, only 20% of this knowledge is available online.
Dr Abigail Barker, Head of Biodiversity Informatics & Spatial Analysis, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: “It’s one thing to know something, it’s quite another to share it so the knowledge can be useful to others.
“It’s [POWO] a single point of access for authoritative information on plant species, from anywhere in the world and a multi-dimensional catalogue of plant life, including information on identification, distribution, traits, threat status, molecular phylogenies and uses. It uses Kew’s extensive data and resources alongside images from the digitisation of the collections.”