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International Plant Names Index (IPNI)

The International Plant Names Index (IPNI) is a database of the names of all seed plants, ferns and fern allies with bibliographic reference to the place of first publication of each name. It is the authority for plant names, feeding this information into other biodiversity informatics projects.
Search page of IPNI © IPNI; Kew

IPNI’s goal is to provide a tool for systematists and eliminate the need for repeated reference to primary sources for basic bibliographic information about plant names. The data are freely available online, and downloads of data have been given to a number of projects for use in generating checklists and as authority files for other databases or programmes. The website ( currently receives around 52,000 searches a day.

We make the name data available dynamically to Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) for use in the Electronic Catalogue of names of known organisms (ECAT) program and IPNI is also searchable via the ePIC interface and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) data portal. We participate with other nomenclator initiatives (e.g. mycology - Index Fungorum and zoology - ZooBank) as part of the GBIF ECAT work programme, and on the development of the Global Names Architecture. We have worked with other members of the taxonomic and biodiversity informatics communities in the prototype development of a GUID (Globally Unique IDentifier) scheme for IPNI records; GUIDs for names were applied in 2006, on authors in 2009. We participate in European Union funded projects such as Pan-European Species Directories Infrastructure (PESI), OpenUp and 4D4Life. IPNI data is part of the Global Names Index.

In early 2004 over 50,000 fern names were added from the Index Filicum making the data available on the internet for the first time. Work continues on standardising, correcting and enhancing the data and the number of changes made each month is displayed on the statistics page on the website. By the middle of 2011, almost 90% of author citations and 83% of publication titles in plant name records had been standardised and linked to the standard record. Nearly 70% of these records now show publication date (twice as many as in 2006). Spelling of specific and infraspecific epithets is being examined with corrections being made where necessary to bring them into line with the current International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants. In all around 300,000 edits are made to name records annually.

In 2009 IPNI citations in Species Plantarum were linked to digitised page images available in the Biodiversity Heritage Library. We plan to extend this to other publications in partnership with BHL.

Since 2006, users have been able to submit corrections to the data directly from the record in question. Later versions of the website will extend this to all types of IPNI records (currently it is implemented just for Authors) and to allow users to send information about omissions. We also plan to make available services to allow batch checking of data online.

We continue to keep IPNI up to date, in collaboration with Harvard University, adding on average between eight and nine thousand new records annually. Figures on number of names added each year are now displayed on the website, updated monthly, and data on name publication trends is supplied to collaborators such as the State of Observed Species.

The team provides nomenclatural advice internally and externally, and the team have given training courses on nomenclature to international audiences at Kew and in Russia, the Kew based course now being given annually.

The IPNI team have recently piloted mechanism to facilitate electronic publication of plant names, providing IPNI identifiers in the publication of these names in journals such as PLOS ONE, Phytokeys and Kew Bulletin, and linking the IPNI citation to the source literature via DOI.

Key publications 2006-2011

  • Morris P., Macklin, J.A., Croft, J. Nicholson, N & Whitbread, G. (2011). Letter of concern regarding Props. (117–119) to amend the ICBN to require pre-publication deposit of nomenclatural information. Mycotaxon 116: 1–5.
  • Richards, K., White, R., Nicolson, N., Pyle, R. (2011). “A Beginner’s Guide to Persistent Identifiers”, version 1.0, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, 33 pp, accessible online at
  • Belyaeva, I. & Dyachenko, A.P. (2010). Useful electronic sources of information for educational purposes in alpha taxonomy. in Proceedings of the International Conference “Innovative Technologies in Education, Ekaterinburg, 20 March 2010”: 3-10
  • Knapp, S., Paton, A., Challis, K. and Nicolson, N. (2010). "Run for your lives! End of the world!" - Electronic publication of new plant names. Taxon 59: 1009-1010.
  • Paton, A. (2009). Biodiversity informatics and the plant conservation baseline. Trends in Plant Science 14: 629-637.

Project partners and collaborators


Australian National Herbarium, Canberra


Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, Mass.
Arizona State University, International Institute for Species Exploration.

SP2000 / Catalogue of Life
Global Names Architecture Partnership

Project funders