ALA Checklist of Accepted Names for Alaskan Vascular Plants

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ALA Checklist Details

(by D.F. Murray)

The ALA list

This checklist of accepted names and synonyms for the vascular plants of Alaska was developed over a period of years for in-house purposes at the Herbarium of the University of Alaska Museum of the North (ALA). It was intended to satisfy the pragmatic desire that each taxon should be given one name when printing labels for new specimens and for arranging the folders of specimens in the range. As a starting point we were very fortunate to have Eric Hultén’s Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories. But the checklist has had to be modified repeatedly to reflect the changes we found and accepted in numerous taxonomic revisions and monographs. It remains, and will always be, a work in progress.

We provide synonyms for each accepted name. Families, with respect to included genera, have been brought into compliance with Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG III).

The spelling of the authors for plant names and combinations follows International Plant Names Index (IPNI). Names with the authority replaced by auct. are misapplied names. For example: whereas Erigeron grandiflorus Hook. is a valid species name, the plant to which it is correctly applied is not found in Alaska. Thus, when that binomial has been used for Alaskan plants, it is a misapplication of the name, which is recorded in the checklist as Erigeron grandiflorus auct. non Hook. The Alaskan plants are properly treated as E. porsildii Nesom & D. F. Murray. Autonyms are given to distinguish infraspecific taxa of the species when more than one is found in our area or in adjacent regions.


Alan Batten was the creator of our initial database before off-the-shelf software was available. He entered most of the data, and he has been guardian of the database prior to the development of Arctos, the Museum’s on-line access to all collections.

Kanchi N. Gandhi (Harvard) has been our authority for nomenclature and guide to solutions of nomenclatural problems.

The checklist is very much a collective effort in which Alan Batten, Bruce Bennett, Matt Carlson, Reidar Elven, Jason Grant, Rob Lipkin, Jordan Metzgar, Carolyn Parker, and Mary Stensvold have participated. Alien plants have been taken from the list developed and maintained by Matt Carlson at the Alaska Natural Heritage Program, University of Alaska Anchorage. That this checklist of accepted names exists is due also to the persistent, gentle urgings and infinite patience of John DeLapp, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, who saw the need for this checklist and urged that it be compiled. He has been steadfast in his encouragement. He supplied some financial support too.


Departures from the initial standard of Hultén’s taxonomy began even before his entire account could be extracted. Taxonomy is dynamic, as it should be, and revisions appear continuously, and it was our job to extract from them and incorporate in our list of accepted names changes that were well founded. Searches of the published literature where not as easy as they are today, and surely we missed much. In time we caught up, I believe.

Flora North America volumes are put on-line as soon as each is completed at We asses each new volume carefully and add changes as warranted.

The PLANTS database ( is one of the best known sources for North America for names and distribution maps; it is the one used as the names standard by federal agencies. Its taxonomy is that of John Kartesz, which often departs from our accepted names list.

Journals from North American sources—colleges and universities, public and private museums, herbaria, and botanical gardens—were first to be examined. However, especially for boreal and arctic floras, there is an extraterritorial trove of botanical research we must evaluate.

Flora Nordica is a multi-national effort by the Nordic countries, with many parallels to Flora of North America, which will eventually treat c. 4,600 species in several volumes. Each volume (general volume and numbers 1,2 and 6 have appeared as of this writing) is a fine work, written by specialists, carefully edited, and beautifully produced. The widely distributed boreal and arctic taxa they treat are for the most part also found in Alaska, hence the relevance of these volumes to Alaskan botany.

We believe that, historically speaking, at least one source, and a major one at that, for the Alaskan flora lies in northeast Asia, even farther west as far as the mountains of Central Asia (Middle Asia of Russian botanists), therefore, it is crucial to have a good knowledge of those floras. We are fortunate that there is a large, Russian language literature. Unfortunately these floras typically have been published in short runs and they become scarce soon after issue. Treatments of note are the multi-volume floras: Arctic Flora USSR begun by A.I. Tolmachev, editor, and completed in 1987 under the editorship of B. A. Yurtsev (for which they received the Lenin Prize); Vascular Plants of the Soviet Far East completed in 1996 under the editorship of S. S. Kharkevich; Flora of Siberia completed in 1997 under the editorship of L. I. Malyshev, I. M. Krasnoborov, and G. A. Peshkova. English translations have been made for the Arctic Flora and for the Flora of Siberia. A very nice recent publication, in Russian, is a Conspectus of the Flora of Chukotka Tundra by Yurtsev et al. (2010). It is a great summary of what is known. Additionally there are Aleksandra Berkutenko’s Flora and Vegetation of the Magadan Oblast (2010) and (thanks to Lisa Strecker) a Catalogue of the Flora of Kamchatka by Yakubov and Chernyagina (2004) both in Russian.

When consulting the Russian work one must determine which of their names should be applied to our North American taxa. Does the same taxon have different names here and in Russia; are two different taxa subsumed under a single name? These questions are precisely what led to the Panarctic Flora Project (PAF), begun as a bi-national effort (US-USSR) in the late 1980s at the instigation of Boris Yurtsev to unify the Russian and North American taxonomic traditions. He and I recognized the lack of perspective from the North Atlantic, and fortunately in 1998 Reidar Elven was persuaded to join and then lead and complete version 1.0 of the PAF project: an annotated checlist. From his revision of Lid’s Flora of Norway in 1994 and again, magnificently, in 2004, his work with the Svalbard flora (Elven and Elvebakk 1996), and his contributions to Flora Nordica, Reidar has brought to PAF an encyclopedic view of the North Atlantic, one greatly enlarged by his recent field experience in arctic Canada, Alaska, the Russian Far East, and Sakha.

Murray and Yurtsev (1999) summarized PAF origins in a short paper in a volume devoted to the entire project (Nordal and Razzhivin 1999). The PAF checklist began with manuscript checklists provided by the same team of Russian specialists at LE who had completed the excellent Arctic Flora of the USSR. These drafts were edited and modified, and the PAF checklist in its present form is very much the result of herculean labor by Reidar who worked directly with Russian authors of the draft checklist in St. Petersburg, distilled the essence from those contributions, wrote incisive commentaries, and reviewed the results with specialists at CAN, DAO, S, and many other institutions. The PAF editorial committee (D.F. Murray, V. Yu. Razzhivin, and Boris A. Yurtsev until his death in 2004) worked with Reidar, the PAF Editor-in-Chief. The Panarctic Flora Checklist (at is a critical source of information for the arctic taxa, and of course those data have been incorporated into this checklist of Alaskan vascular plants.

In addition to the PAF Checklist for the Arctic there are two other sources to be considered: Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago ( and The Flora of Svalbard ( A new project, just begun with Canadian leadership, is the Arctic Flora of Canada and Alaska that is being constructed from the ground up in a highly structured digital environment for which the early contributions can be see on-line (

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