Plant, fungi and algae research
Scientists at the Queensland Herbarium conduct research to monitor and manage Queensland’s flora, fungi and algae.
What does a taxonomist do?
Taxonomy is the science of naming, describing and classifying organisms. Plant, fungi and algae taxonomists describe, name and classify new species, improve existing classifications and provide identification services and tools to the public.
Species of plants, fungi and algae that are newly identified are given unique scientific names.
Documenting new species, identifying others using their currently accepted scientific names and enhancing our capability to identify and document species are critical to our understanding of invasive species, maintaining Queensland’s biodiversity and protecting threatened flora.
How new species are described
In general, taxonomists follow a series of steps when describing a new species. This includes:
- examining and/or measuring the physical characteristics of preserved specimens using equipment, such as a microscope and a hand lens
- checking and reading relevant literature
- observing live plants and their habitats in the field and/or their physical characteristics in cultivation
- using molecular (e.g. DNA sequences) and morphological features (e.g. anatomy, micromorphology, ecology) to infer relationships and observe differences between species, subspecies and varieties
- assigning names according to the established International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi and Plants (Shenzhen Code)
- examining and allocating type specimens (specimens that are usually preserved and housed in a herbarium and selected by taxonomists to compare with other specimens when determining whether they are members of the same species)
- publishing a description of each new species in a journal (e.g. Austrobaileya) following the rules outlined in the Shenzhen Code, along with a specimen illustration.
Tracking name changes
Advances in taxonomic studies often result in taxonomic changes. Initial species names may sometimes change and new names are constantly being added.
The Queensland Flora and Fungi Census is published regularly and collates recent taxonomic changes in of all of the known flora, fungi and algae species in Queensland.
Online resources for names of plants, fungi and algae
- Australian Plant Name Index
- Flora databases and online resources
- GRIN taxonomy for plants
- International Plant Names Index