State of the World's Plants 2017

Royal Botanic Garden Kew publishes its annual update on the world's plants

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Over the last year: 1730 new plant species have been named, the fall armyworm has devastated maize crops across Africa, and wild fires have raged over a global area the size of India.

The first tree species in the family Acanthaceae has been discovered. New research suggests that sugar may have been domesticated in Polynesia.

Other new plant species include: a new parsnip from Turkey, eleven species of cassava and a plant that may reduce greenhouse emissions from cows.

These and many other facts and analyses can be found in the new State of the World's Plants report published today by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

The report's 96 pages cover topics as diverse as the problems of naming medicinal plant species, to the unintended consequences of attempts to eradicate alien invasives. It's chapters include: climate change, genomics, protected areas, plant health and extinction risks.

One of its most telling infographics shows that while over 20 genomes of plants in the Brassicales and Poales have been sequenced, over 40 orders of plants have no published genome assemblies.

The report provides a broad overview of global research in the plant sciences. Written to be accessible to policy makers and the public, the report is also essential reading for scientists interested in the impact of research, and gaps in our knowledge. No doubt this report will be cited in many grant proposals over the year ahead.

Richard Buggs

Professor, Queen Mary University of London