28 May : Plant Taxonomy is the science that finds, describes, classifies, identifies and names plants. It is closely allied to plant systematics which is involved with relationships between plants and their evolution, especially at the higher levels. At this point it handles plant specimens. Two goals of plant taxonomy are the identification and classification of plants. The distinction between these two goals is important and often overlooked.Plant identification is the determination of the identity of an unknown plant by comparison with previously collected specimens or with the aid of books or identification manuals. The process of identification connects the specimen with a published name. Once a plant specimen has been identified, its name and properties are known.
Plant classification is the placing of known plants into groups or categories to show some relationship. Scientific classification follows a system of rules that standardizes the results, and groups successive categories into a hierarchy in a series Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, and Genera. The classification of plants results in an organized system for the naming and cataloging of future specimens, and ideally reflects scientific ideas about plant inter-relationships.
During the course of plant explorations and taxonomic revisionary/monographic studies, Botanical Survey of India (BSI) scientists have been routinely discovering plants new to science or new plant records for India. Since reorganization of BSI in 1954, its scientists have described one new family, 29 new genera and discovered over 850 plants new to science and several hundred new plant records for the country. At the initiative of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2008, the BSI started the compilation of plant discoveries and new records, made from the country during the preceding year. This brings general awareness about the richness of biodiversity and the contributions made by the taxonomists towards its documentation to meet the commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The 2008 issue of this annual publication will be released on coming World Environment day and it will highlight the discoveries made by BSI scientists alone during 2007. The taxonomic studies on the Indian flora carried out by the BSI, however, is further complimented by plant taxonomists working in other research and academic institutions, both within and outside the country, thus significantly adding to our knowledge of the plant diversity of the country. During 2008 alone the scientists from BSI and other institutions discovered 03 genera, 108 species, 14 subspecies, 12 varieties and 01 forma as new to science and 24 species and 03 varieties as new records for Indian Flora. The book ‘PLANT DISCOVERIES 2008’ provides a glimpse of this notable contribution during 2008 for general awareness amongst the people about the richness of our biodiversity and the challenges it holds for the plant taxonomists.
The Botanical Survey of India (BSI), a premier research organization of the country mandated for survey, documentation and conservation of plant diversity of the country, was established on 13 February, 1890. As part of scientific development of the country after independence, the Government of India reorganized BSI in 1954 to undertake intensive floristic surveys and collect information on the occurrence, distribution, ecology and economic utility of plants in the country, and to act as custodian of authentic collections in well planned herbaria and to document the plant resources in the form of local, district, state and national flora. The Director, Botanical Survey of India Advises the Govt. of India on all matters related to wild plant diversity of the country, and acts as the Scientific Authority on plants under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Botanical Survey of India thus serves the nation by providing scientific basis for conservation and sustainable use of wild plant diversity through survey, documentation, taxonomic research and environmental awareness.
During the successive plan periods, the functional base of Botanical Survey of India was further expanded to include various new areas such as inventorying of endangered plant species and evolving conservation strategies; studies on fragile ecosystems and protected areas; conservation, multiplication and maintenance of germ-plasm of plant genetic resources, economic, endemic and threatened species, etc.; documentation of traditional knowledge associated with plants and development of National Database on various facets of India’s plant diversity. BSI thus serves the nation by providing scientific basis for conservation and sustainable use of wild plant diversity through survey, taxonomic research, documentation and environmental awareness. At present BSI has 11 regional offices and 5 units located in different climatic zones of the country.
The BSI has so far explored over 70 per cent of the total geographical area of the country which has resulted into about 4 million national reference collections of plants; inventoried about 1700 rare and threatened species; introduced over 1.5 million live collections in its botanic gardens; published 33 volumes under ‘Flora of India’, 41 volumes under ‘State Flora’, 34 volumes under ‘District Flora’, over 145 titles of other thematic publication, 50 volumes of Bulletin of Botanical Survey of India, 23 Volumes of Records of Botanical Survey of India, 12 Volumes of ENVIS News Letter and 17 Volumes of Vanaspati Vani, and has trained over 150 research scholars in various aspects of plant systematics.