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Missouri Botanical Garden / Submitted photo Visitors make their way through the Missouri Botanical Garden’s maze garden.

A decade ago the United Nations issued a mandate to plant scientists: Assemble all the names of all the world's known plants in a single place.

But the world body didn't cough up any cash for the effort.

On Tuesday, however, biotechnology giant Monsanto Co., announced it will contribute $3 million toward the project, known as the World Flora, which will eventually form the most comprehensive collection of plant names and botanical information ever gathered.

The project is being led by the Missouri Botanical Garden, along with England's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the New York Botanical Garden.

The World Flora will build on another project called the Plant List, first conceived at the International Botanical Congress, held in St. Louis in 1999. The Plant List was the first online database where the world's 400,000 or so known plant species were cataloged for the first time. It will be a critical conservation tool, with expanded scientific information that will help researchers determine where threatened plants are located and how to save them.

“The proposed World Flora Online will be an invaluable, accessible treatment of the world's plant diversity that will act as a baseline to support global efforts to identify, safeguard and sustainably use and manage plants for humankind,” said Peter Wyse Jackson, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, in a statement.

Wyse Jackson said the creation of the World Flora will help scientists meet a key goal of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity: to halt the loss of plant species worldwide by 2020.

The funding from Monsanto will fund the effort through 2015.

The Creve Coeur-based company has been a major benefactor of the garden, giving some $10 million for capital, science and educational projects over the past 40 years.

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