Spotlight on Q-bank: Invasive plant keys for Europe

Q-Bank Plants

The Q-bank invasive plants database provides detailed species-level information on all plants species on the EU list of Union concern, associated with EU regulation 1143/2014. This includes fact sheets, look alike pages and DNA barcodes to facilitate identification during border inspection and verification of interceptions in support of the implementation of the EU regulation regarding invasive alien species.

Q-Bank chart

The first interactive key built for Q-bank was to deal with contaminants (weeds) of pot plants imported into Europe. Some of these weeds show invasive behaviour and proper identification is essential to track accidental introductions rapidly. The identification of the weeds in pot plants proved to be difficult as floras (the commonly used identification tools) generally only cover a limited geographical area. Moreover, “traditional” floras seldom include non-native weedy plants. The weeds to be identified originate from many different countries and continents and even include cultivated plants. This means that identification of these weed species using floras is falling short and, for that reason, an inspection tool for identification of these plants had to be developed.

The first species to be included in a key were based on an inventory of weeds found in bonsai plants imported from China. At a later stage more species were added as they were intercepted in pot plants imported from other production regions of the world. Currently the key covers 136 species.

We have chosen Lucid software since the resulting keys are extraordinarily user friendly and intuitive to use. They rely on a visual (‘image-driven’) mode of work, thereby avoiding as much as possible technical (or botanical) terms. The multiple entry keys do not require the user to select characters in a fixed sequence; the user scores characters in the order that suits him or her best. The results of characters selected are immediately shown on-screen. Another reason to choose Lucid is that the user only needs an internet browser and no other software.

The species in the keys are all illustrated by photographs showing the distinguishing characters and a link to species information on Q-bank is provided in the keys. Here users can find more information on the species, a selection of herbarium voucher specimens as well as molecular data. The links between the different databases on invasive plants within Q-bank are shown in the diagram below.

The keys on invasive plant species currently available are:

  1. Weeds in imported pot plants in Europe
  2. Invasive terrestrial plants in Europe
  3. Invasive aquatic plants
  4. Seedlings of invasive plants
  5. Seeds of invasive plants
  6. Pennisetum cultivars