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One Book -- 10,000 Plants

By Hank Becker
April 9, 1999

A new book covering 10,000 of the world's economically important plants greatly expands upon an out-of-date, out-of-print reference long popular with botanists, other scientists, teachers and others.

The new 784-page volume is World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference. It stems from Agricultural Handbook 505, published in 1977 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and revised in 1986.

Two scientists with the Agricultural Research Service, USDA's principal scientific agency, wrote the new book. It provides information required by scientists and others who study, identify or classify crop plants, weeds, poisonous plants and other plants of economic importance, including those with medicinal and industrial potential.

World Economic Plants was published under a cooperative research and development agreement between ARS and CRC Press of Boca Raton, Fla.

The earlier book was A Checklist of Names for 3,000 Vascular Plants of Economic Importance. The new one gives reference information on three times as many plants--nearly 10,000 in all. Like the 1977 handbook, World Economic Plants supplies accepted scientific names, important synonyms and common names. But it also provides economic uses and geographical distribution.

The new information reflects more than two decades of research by ARS plant taxonomists. The project arose from the need for consistent as well as accurate data in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) databases used by researchers and others around the globe. The new data are being added to GRIN databases on a World Wide Web site of ARS' National Plant Germplasm System:

The book's authors are taxonomists John W. Wiersema and Blanca León of ARS' Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory, Beltsville, Md. The book, priced at $125.00, is available from CRC Press. More details can be found at a CRC catalog web site.

Scientific contact: John W. Wiersema, ARS Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-9181, fax 504-5810,