DNA barcode for plants


A team of international scientists have agreed on a standard "DNA barcode" for plants. This breakthrough has been a long time in coming and will allow botanists to identify species much more readily.

The findings, which were led by lead author Dr Peter Hollingsworth, head of genetics and conservation at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They hope this news will lead to the establishment of a global DNA reference library, which can be used by the global scientific community.

Benefits of the system could go way beyond taxonomic studies in the field or lab. It's easy to foresee the system being used in the fight against illegal trade in threatened species where time is of the essence.


It's estimated there are approximately 400,000 species of plants on the planet, with potentially many more awaiting discovery based on their genetics. Of this list approximately 100,000 are trees, many of which are on the endangered lists with more being added each year.

Having the ability to send small fragments of specimens back to labs for easy identification may take some of the fun out of being a botanist but it could be critical to save some of our rarest plants. Especially at a time when we are critically short of taxonomic botanists.


With the advent of DNA barcodes plant taxonomy could be much different in the future.