Taxonomic Resources

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Statement of Purpose

A place to aggregate and provide information on taxonomic resources for natural history. This includes online taxonomic lookups, aggregators, and supporting resources to help understand taxonomic rules and formats across natural history.


Knowing where to find information on taxonomy, and understanding those resources and rules, is a critical part of working with natural history collections. While some of this can be discovered in libraries and websites, many resources are difficult to find. Additionally, while some resources may be straight forward, sometimes additional supporting information is needed to fully understand what is going on.


Genevieve Tocci, Emily Braker

General Taxonomic Resources

Botanical Resources

Online Nomenclature Resources

General Botany Resources

  • “Index Nominum Genericorum (ING).” Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, 2020,
    • This reference website searches at the genus level to provide publication and status information for genera along with major group and family. It is a fast and accurate way to determine the type of organism so correct online nomenclature database is selected for further research.

Vascular Plant Resources

  • International Plant Names Index. IPNI. 2020,
    • IPNI is the global standard for vascular plant names and official author and publication abbreviations in botany. It has the status of most vascular plant names, but not necessarily all treated synonyms.
  • “Plants of the World Online.” Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 2020.,
    • Plants of the World Online is managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (K) and is working on becoming an encyclopedic vascular plant nomenclature resource with all synonyms included. It is based, in part, on the now static collaborative effort The Plant List ( which was similar in scope but with a different visual format and included some bryophytes.
  • “Tropicos.” Missouri Botanical Garden, 2020,
    • The Tropicos nomenclature search is run out of the Missouri Botanical Garden (MO) and encompasses mostly vascular plants and bryophytes. Its aim is to be encyclopedic in scope, though it may not have everything. It generally has large lists of synonyms and related publications to help researchers decide which of the legitimate names they feel is best. It also often links out to type protologues if they are freely available online.

Non-Vascular Cryptogam Resources

  • “Tropicos.” Missouri Botanical Garden, 2020,
    • The Tropicos nomenclature search is run out of the Missouri Botanical Garden (MO) and encompasses mostly vascular plants and bryophytes. It is currently the only resource for moss nomenclature and taxonomy and is excellent due to the strong research and collections at MO. It has good information on hepatics (liverworts and hornworts) as well, though may lack records for very early obscure taxon names. This online database often links out to type protologues if they are freely available online.
  • “Recherche - Index Hepaticarum Names Database.” Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de La Ville de Genève,
    • Index Hepaticarum is a listing of all liverwort and hornwort epithets published between 1 May 1753 and 31 December 1973. It is fairly exhaustive and is a good way to supplement information from Tropicos. For many basionym records it lists type information. This online database does not generally link to online protologues.
Fungi and Lichens
  • Index Fungorum. 2020,
    • The online database Index Fungorum is the primary resource for fungal nomenclature. Fungi in this instance include lichens (lichenized fungi) as well as organisms formerly considered fungi, such as myxomycetes. It is encyclopedic in nature and links to publications and protologues of relevance when possible. For many taxa it has an assigned Species Fungorum current name that is based on Kew Mycology data. This is informative but not a static resource for taxonomic collections statuses.
  • MycoBank Database. 2020,
    • MycoBank Database is a collaborative effort to provide both a nomenclatural database for fungi as well as a place to store additional data related to species. The 2017 ICN requires the registration of new fungal names and this is one of the places registration is done. For nomenclatural information it mostly replicates what is available on Index Fungorum but can also offer other insights.
  • Guiry, M. D., and Guiry, G. M. Algaebase. 7 Mar. 2020,
    • Algaebase is a collaborative encyclopedic database on algae nomenclature. This includes macroalgae as well as microalgae, diatoms, and cyanobacteria. Occasionally it is missing obscure historic infraspecific taxa, which can be checked against Index Nominum Algarum.
  • “Index Nominum Algarum.” University Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley, 5 Feb. 2020,
    • Index Nominum Algarum and Bibliographia Phycologica Universalis are digital versions of card files maintained by the University of California, Berkeley. Additional data not available on Algaebase can be located here, sometimes as clear data and sometimes by looking at images of the original cards. The references on the original cards can be difficult to figure out occasionally but is worth looking if working with obscure material that may represent a type.

Print Nomenclature Resources

Rules of Botanical Nomenclature

  • Turland, N. J., et al. International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (Shenzhen Code): Adopted by the Nineteenth International Botanical Congress Shenzhen, China, July 2017. Koeltz Botanical Books, 2018,
    • This is the official legal code of botanical nomenclature that was most recently ratified and is what must be followed until the next edition of the code is released. While exceptionally precise and detailed, this information is very dense and hard to decipher even for botanical experts. Searching the online version for specific information and being able to easily move to the relevant sections makes it slightly more accessible, but without experience or a course on basic rules of botanical nomenclature this is virtually impenetrable.
  • Turland, Nicholas. The Code Decoded: A User’s Guide to the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants. 2nd ed., 2019,
    • This extensive work is by one of the world experts on botanical nomenclature and the ICN. The actual International Code of Nomenclature is extremely technical and dense, making it a struggle for seasoned, well-trained botanists to decipher. This work dissects and explains the different aspects of the ICN, but still requires a basic working knowledge of botanical nomenclature.
  • Hawksworth, David L., et al. “Fungal Nomenclature Evolving: Changes Adopted by the 19(Th) International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen 2017, and Procedures for the Fungal Nomenclature Session at the 11(Th) International Mycological Congress in Puerto Rico 2018.” IMA Fungus, vol. 8, no. 2, Dec. 2017, pp. 211–18, doi:10.5598/imafungus.2017.08.02.01. PubMed, 29242772.
    • This critical summary document by fungal experts breaks down the changes to the International Code of Nomenclature that specifically relates to fungi. This document is exceptionally dense despite being a summary document and is really something researches in fungal taxonomy and nomenclature need to understand. Many of the changes outlined are also things that an herbarium with fungal collections will also have to understand and implement, though without a mycologist on hand it will be very difficult. This resource should be consulted in conjunction with the 2017 Shenzhen version of the International Code of Nomenclature when trying to update any mycological collections related to the changes in name status.

Botanical Latin

  • Stearn, William T. Botanical Latin: History, Grammar, Syntax, Terminology, and Vocabulary. 4th ed., Timber Press, 1995.
    • This volume is considered one of the critical resources in any botanical collection. It covers the history of botanical Latin, provides examples of how it has been used, and has an extensive dictionary of botanical Latin terms. It also covers how to create correct names in botanical Latin, as well as how other terms have been Latinized. The section on Latinized place names will be invaluable to any collection with specimens of a historic nature. While some of this information is available online in other places, this book is a staple for all herbaria.

Assessing Specimen Names

The name(s) present on a specimen may or may not be a published, legitimate or valid name. Each collection handles filing differently when it comes to taxonomic updates and names, so always using the guidelines for the excising collection is critical. This flowchart is to help assess what kind of "name" is actually on a specimen in so that full understanding of unpublished, valid vs. invalid, and legitimate vs. illegitimate can be understood over time as these terms and rules governed by the International Code of Nomenclature (ICN) is very complex.

Flowchart to determine the type of name on a botany specimen

Zoological Resources

Online Nomenclature Resources






  • Mammal Species of the World.
    • Online list compiled by American Society of Mammalogists, based on Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), Johns Hopkins University Press, 2,142 pp.


Geology and Paleontology

Online Nomenclature Resources