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Plants of the Americas

December 29, 2017

A comprehensive inventory maps the plants of the Americas.

Transcript

Kunhardtia rhodantha is in the family Rapateaceae, which is a family almost endemic to the Americas. (P. Berry)

Kunhardtia rhodantha is in the family Rapateaceae, which is a family almost endemic to the Americas. (P. Berry)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A census of plants. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The Americas are home to 125,000 known species of plants, from towering redwoods to tiny duckweeds. This according to a new study in the journal Science. It describes a New World plant inventory created by an international team of scientists, led by Missouri Botanical Garden curator Carmen Ulloa.

CARMEN ULLOA ULLOA (Missouri Botanical Garden):

We wanted to know, you know, where the different plant families are more concentrated, which are the plant families that are only found in the Americas. So it’s exactly like a census, but in this case, for plants.

HIRSHON:

The work helps scientists see hotspots for biodiversity, and identify places most in need of protection. Other researchers can use the database to locate promising areas in which to find plants with medicinal properties and agricultural potential. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon