Index Kewensis
The Index Kewensis maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, usually referred to as Kew Gardens, is 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond and Kew in southwest London, England. "The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" and the brand name "Kew" are also used as umbrella terms for the institution that runs...

, is a publication that aims to register all botanical names for seed plants at the rank of species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 and genera
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

. It later came to include names of taxonomic families
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 and ranks below that of species.


The preparation for this venture was made by Benjamin Daydon Jackson
Benjamin Daydon Jackson
Benjamin Daydon Jackson was a pioneering botanist and taxonomer who wrote the first volume of Index Kewensis to include all the flowering plants.-Biography:...

 of the Linnaean Society, directed by Joseph Dalton Hooker
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker OM, GCSI, CB, MD, FRS was one of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the 19th century. Hooker was a founder of geographical botany, and Charles Darwin's closest friend...

 at Kew. Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 provided the funding for the indexing project in the 1880s, £250 per annum over a 5 year period, stipulating in his will that provision be made for this.
In providing citations of plant names, the starting point was taken from 1753 onward; the year of publication for the Systema Naturae
Systema Naturae
The book was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735...

of Linnaeus.
Darwin had found difficulties in applying these to the plants he studied, and Hooker's directive was to ‘the compilation of an Index to the Names and Authorities of all known flowering plants and their countries’.
While the Index has never fulfilled this original charter, it was the most comprehensive for over 100 years.
This work, after its combination with the Gray Herbarium and Australian Plant Name
Australian Plant Name Index
The Australian Plant Name Index is an online database of all published names of Australian vascular plants. It covers all names, whether current names, synonyms or invalid names...

 indexes, is the foundation of a database anticipated to complete this task.

Previous attempts at a comprehensive index had relied on secondary sources, this was the first attempt to provide the original publication details of the names.
A note on the country of origin was also included.
The publications of De Candolle
A. P. de Candolle
Augustin Pyramus de Candolle also spelled Augustin Pyrame de Candolle was a Swiss botanist. René Louiche Desfontaines launched Candolle's botanical career by recommending him at an herbarium...

, Pfeiffer
Ludwig Karl Georg Pfeiffer
Ludwig Karl Georg Pfeiffer, also known as Louis Pfeiffer was a German physician, botanist and conchologist.-Biography:He received his education in Kassel, and became professor of pathology there in 1828...

, and Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

 provided models for the acceptance of names.
However, the editor admitted that not all earlier sources were included; this sometimes led to subsequent errors in botanical nomenclature
Botanical nomenclature
Botanical nomenclature is the formal, scientific naming of plants. It is related to, but distinct from taxonomy. Plant taxonomy is concerned with grouping and classifying plants; botanical nomenclature then provides names for the results of this process. The starting point for modern botanical...


The scope of the project was also changed in early editions, the editor noting that to include a full synonymy was too ambitious. The work originally indicated acceptance of a name, acting as a nomenclator rather than an index, but by 1913 it avoided making taxonomic judgement in its citations.
The integrity of the document was liable to criticism as only representing the 'Kew view' on nomenclatural validity, the objective task of indexing gave the work itself greater international acceptance.

A description of Hooker's systematic works by F O Bower
Frederick Orpen Bower
Frederick Orpen Bower FRS was a British botanist. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1891. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Linnean Society in 1909 and the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society in 1938....

 notes the "scheme originated in the difficulty he had found in the accurate naming of plants", and anticipates the importance of this work,
"Surely no greater technical benefit was ever conferred upon a future generation by the veterans of science than this Index. It smooths the way for every systematist who comes after. It stands as a monument to an intimate friendship. It bears witness to the munificence of Darwin, and the ungrudging personal care of Hooker."


A hard copy
Hard copy
In information handling, a hard copy is a permanent reproduction, or copy, in the form of a physical object, of any media suitable for direct use by a person , of displayed or transmitted data...

 was reprinted in 1996, providing access to the original publication details of plant names; these were also made available in microfiche format as the Cumulated Index Kewensis. The publication titled Kew Index was issued from 1986 until 1989.

The first index contained the scientific names of 400 000 species, regular supplements were then issued on newly published names. The supplements were issued every five years, each one adding around 6 000 names to the index, eventually forming a compilation of over 1 000 000 entries.
The sixteenth supplement began to include bibliograhic details at the rank of family and below, the later annual supplements included fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...

s and their allies. A digitalized version of the index was issued on a Compact Disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

. A digital version was incorporporated with other indexes as the International Plant Names Index (IPNI), and may fulfill the original intention - a complete index of plant names. Entries at IPNI are designated with the abbreviation "(IK)".
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