History of Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants
The RFK has been in continuous development since the 1960s and been published in eight editions from 1971 to the current online version in 2020.
Edition 1: This project had its genesis with the key by Hyland in 1971, which covered 584 taxa of rain forest trees in north Queensland. The character set consisted of 48 bark features and 45 leaf features, and the key was a polyclave or card key on the then standard 80-column computer cards.
Edition 2: Eleven years later, the Revised Key by Hyland in 1982 covered 799 taxa for the same bark and leaf features, with the addition of family and geographic area. This key reached the limits of the currently available technology, with the 799 taxa filling all available positions on the computer cards.
Edition 3: Eleven years later again, the computer-based key by Hyland and Whiffin in 1993 covered 1056 taxa of trees of all Australian tropical rain forests. This consisted of two volumes, a leaf atlas, and computer-based keys in both MS-DOS and Macintosh formats. In addition to the bark and leaf features, additional features from flowers, fruits and seedlings were included, as well as notes on distribution and ecology.
Edition 4: A version of the key combining trees and shrubs was published in January 2000. This results from the combined efforts of Bernie Hyland, Trevor Whiffin, David Christophel, Bruce Gray, Rebel Elick and Andrew Ford. This version is a Windows based key, covering 1733 taxa of the rain forest trees and shrubs, from all northern Australian tropical rain forests.
Edition 5: A version of the key combining trees, shrubs and vines was published in February 2003. This results from the combined efforts of Bernie Hyland, Trevor Whiffin, David Christophel, Bruce Gray and Rebel Elick. This version is a Windows based key, covering 2154 taxa of the rainforest trees, shrubs and vines of northern Australia.
Edition 6: A version of the key combining all life forms (trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, grasses, sedges, palms, pandans and epiphytes) was released online in December 2010. This version covered 2553 taxa of rainforest plants, marked a move to Lucid interactive key software and was only available online. This version resulted from the combined historical work of Bernie Hyland, Trevor Whiffin, David Christophel, Bruce Gray, Andrew Ford and Rebel Elick and the rest of the team with new work by Frank Zich and Fanie Venter based at the Australian Tropical Herbarium.
Edition 7: This edition was released online in December 2018 and extended the geographical coverage of the RFK south from Townsville to the Tropic of Capricorn, near Rockhampton. Further, many species that had previously been missed from other regions were included. In total Edition 7 added 200 taxa of rainforest plants, included a full nomenclature update and review of geographic distributions, and over 13,800 images. This version resulted from the combined historical work of Bernie Hyland, Trevor Whiffin, David Christophel, Bruce Gray, Andrew Ford, Rebel Elick and Fanie Venter, and the rest of the team, with new work by Frank Zich and Raelee Kerrigan based at the Australian Tropical Herbarium.