Seeds and Shoots
No group of organisms has received more detailed taxonomic attention than land plants, but identifications often require both the intervention of specialists and access to specific life stages (e.g. flowers).
The reason for this interest is obvious; crop plants and trees form the foundation of agricultural and forestry production. And yet identification issues remain significant. For example, surveys of rainforest regeneration are hindered by the fact that juvenile tree specimens cannot be identified. Even efforts to monitor mature tropical forests are complex because diagnostic floral traits are only present for a brief period every few years on branches 50m above the ground.
There is also a vital need to conserve plant lineages allied to those used in agriculture to serve as a potential source of genetic variation in case of viral or fungal attack on cultivars. Furthermore, conservation efforts regularly begin with an effort to gather floristic data because so many animal species are herbivores whose presence depends on the distribution of food plants.
The assembly of such floristic information is highly complex in the tropics and little better in temperate regions. For all these reasons, heavy emphasis has been placed on the development of a DNA barcoding system for plants and the selection of marker loci is now approaching closure.
Given that there are some 400,000 species of land plants, iBOL will not complete their barcode registration in five years, but it will gather barcode records for at least 100,000 of these species.