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Developing a online world Flora of Grasses.

GrassBase has been in development at Kew for over 20 years. It forms a repository for species descriptive and nomenclatural data that aspires to be a global standard. Species descriptions are currently stored in DELTA format and the nomenclatural database is a purpose designed Microsoft Access database. The primary objectives of this project are to further develop these databases, making them accessible to a broad audience through the Internet; incorporation of the nomenclatural data into the Plant List and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families and development of an interactive key that will assist users with the identification of grasses worldwide.

The current release includes over 11,000 species description pages based on over 1100 characters and covering almost all the known grass species. The interactive key associated with these data continues to be updated with new descriptions, and the nomenclatural database now provides a link to the species description pages from the nomenclature. Interest in the database is growing and the data contained therein are being used as the basis of a number of regional floristic treatments. There is considerable interest in incorporating the descriptive data into large phylogenetic studies.

The nomenclatural database in Access is currently available for download on the internet. Data also available through the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families and The Plant List. Ongoing work is being undertaken to integrate and standardise these datasets.

The interactive key associated with the descriptive data will be vastly improved by the incorporation of specimen images and illustrations for a large proportion of the species within the database. The quality of the data will be improved via a feedback mechanism through which users can submit corrections and additions to the database.

GrassBase forms a significant part of the eMonocot project. GrassBase also collaborates with GrassPortal, based at Sheffield University and GrassWorld based at Brisbane Botanic Gardens. These collaborations are stimulating further development of GrassBase that will underpin a powerful, information-rich, global resource for grasses.

Key publication:


Project partners and collaborators


Brisbane Botanic Gardens



University of Sheffield

USAMissouri Botanical Garden
US National Herbarium

Project funders


Annex material

Annex 1: Clayton, W.D., Harman, K.T. and Williamson, H. (2002 onwards). World Grass Species: Descriptions, Identification, and Information Retrieval. (Web pages)

Annex 2: Clayton, W.D., Harman, K.T. and Williamson, H. (2002 onwards). World Grass Species: Synonymy. (Web pages)