Abstract

We estimate the probable number of flowering plants. First, we apply a model that explicitly incorporates taxonomic effort over time to estimate the number of as-yet-unknown species. Second, we ask taxonomic experts their opinions on how many species are likely to be missing, on a family-by-family basis. The results are broadly comparable. We show that the current number of species should grow by between 10 and 20 per cent. There are, however, interesting discrepancies between expert and model estimates for some families, suggesting that our model does not always completely capture patterns of taxonomic activity. The as-yet-unknown species are probably similar to those taxonomists have described recently—overwhelmingly rare and local, and disproportionately in biodiversity hotspots, where there are high levels of habitat destruction.

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