Keys to the Flowering Plants of Australia

This project seeks to compile, create and maintain a set of keys to all the flowering plants in Australia. The keys are maintained and deployed through two separate but linked systems: KeyBase, a system for teaching new tricks to old (dichotomous) keys, and IdentifyLife, a collaborative environment for building and maintaining matrix-based (often called interactive) keys.

Keybase has been developed by Niels Klazenga (Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne) and Kevin Thiele (Western Australian Herbarium), and is based on ideas first implemented for the Lucid Phoenix project at the Centre for Biological Information Technology, The University of Queensland (CBIT). IdentifyLife is an open-source project developed with funding from the Atlas of Living Australia; work to date has been done at CBIT, by Damian Barnier, Mike Rickerby and Kevin Thiele.

The core idea of KeyBase and IdentifyLife is to provide better ways of managing identification keys. Keybase is a database of dichotomous keys, a website for deploying the keys held in its database, and (for registered users) a management tool for adding, editing and maintaining KeyBase keys. IdentifyLife is a database of descriptive statements about organisms (descriptlets), an editing environment for recording and maintaining the descriptlets, and a Player that uses the descriptlets to build keys on the fly. Using KeyBase and IdentifyLife we believe it will be possible to create a seamless set of keys to all the species of flowering plants in Australia (and, under other projects, to other groups such as ferns, mosses, anything).

Click here to read more about KeyBase and IdentifyLife and how they work. You will also find more on the KeyBase Google Code and IdentifyLife Google Code pages.

How can I help?

This project can only work if it's a collaborative one, involving expertise from throughout Australia and around the world. Your help as a contributor will be greatly appreciated.

Currently, KeyBase has in it a key to the families of flowering plants in Australia, and keys to the genera in most families. The Families key is based on the key in Flora of Australia Volume 1 (2nd edition). Keys to genera are derived from the Flora of Australia (if the family is covered) or from Flowering Plants in Australia by Morley & Toelken (1983) for families that are not yet covered in the Flora.

The ultimate aim is to have a complete set of keys, to species level, with all keys checked and current. Clearly, some keys currently in KeyBase will have errors in them and will be out-of-date and incomplete. Further, the keys in the Flora and Morley & Toelken use the Cronquist classification system, and will need to be updated and modified to match the APGIII system used in projects such as the Australian Plant Checklist (APC).

The following steps are needed - your help would be appreciated with any of these:
  • Step 1 - check KeyBase's Families key - visit this folder on Google Docs and read the instructions document (the first document in the folder) to find out how.
  • Step 2 - find and add new keys to KeyBase. Please email if you would like to contribute
-- KevinThiele - 2012-12-24