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Legumes of the World Online

A new web resource from Kew provides information on the genera of the legume family.

The homepage of Legumes of the World Online

In July 2005, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew published Legumes of the World, a book containing an encyclopaedic overview of the current knowledge of the 727 genera then recognised in the family Leguminose (Fabaceae).

The content and images published in Legumes of the World are now accessible as a web-based publication, Legumes of the World On-Line (LOWO), managed and updated initially by members of the legume research team at Kew (Barbara Mackinder, Ruth Clark, Gwilym Lewis and Lulu Rico) with contributions from other international legume specialists. LOWO links to other Kew-based and external legume resources, and the intention is to integrate it with additional classes of legume data provided and curated by others.

LOWO currently contains information about the number of species, global distribution, ecology, habit and uses of each legume genus, as well as pointing to reliable references for further information and providing useful notes about taxonomy, including the etymology of the genus names.

Users can locate a genus by browsing either the traditional hierarchical classification (tribe by tribe as the published book was arranged) or a phylogenetic hierarchy which more closely reflects current thinking as to the evolutionary relationships in the family. Users can also search using scientific names (including synonyms) or common names, or search for any content through use of a simple free text search.

What are our plans?

New content is to be regularly added to the website gleaned largely from published scientific papers, new revisions, monographs and Flora treatments. For example, we already know that the number of legume genera has increased from the 727 recognised in Legumes of the World in 2005 to 751 accepted in mid-2013.

We are committed to making numerous additional authoritatively identified legume images widely available through LOWO. At Kew we have a major collection of images which could not be included in the book. Currently only images for which explicit permission has been granted for use on the website are visible. Where images and artwork in LOWO are subject to copyright agreements we will be seeking permission from their owners to consent to their use for this purpose. We also plan to enhance geographical distribution data so that country lists of genera can be easily downloaded and provide active links to other sources of legume data.

How can you participate?

We would like to receive news of your new legume publications. Digital links to your publications, if they exist, are particularly welcome. This will allow us to keep the information on the website as up to date as possible.

We are particularly keen to receive legume images, especially digital photographs of flowers, fruits, habit and habitat if you are willing to give us permission to use your photos in LOWO (all images are appropriately acknowledged). Ideally, images should link to a specimen lodged as a voucher in a recognised herbarium. Metadata accompanying an image should include, where available, plant identification, country, collector of associated specimen, collector's number and collection date. There is no restriction on how many images we can include on each genus page.

We are seeking to increase the number of contributors who are willing to act as genus or tribe coordinators and who we can consult for authoritative input and feedback on taxonomy, phylogenetic position, data reliability and image availability. If you'd like to be involved, please get in touch.

If you manage a digital resource containing information about legumes and would like to explore possibilities for linkages and pointers between the two data sets, or if you have feedback about LOWO, contact us at lowo@kew.org.

Follow us on twitter@LegumeGenera.

Item from Dr Barbara Mackinder (Legume Systematist, RBG Kew)

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