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This is the first document to collate current knowledge on the state of the world’s plants. A large team of researchers has reviewed published literature, scrutinised global databases and synthesised new datasets. The output presented here represents a status report on our knowledge of global vegetation as it stands in 2016, including a synthesis of existing information about vascular plants (Figure 1), new findings emerging from the review process, and an update on current knowledge gaps. The report is in three sections. The first part describes what we currently know about plants: how many plant species there are, new plant discoveries in 2015, our current knowledge on plant evolutionary relationships and plant genomes, the number of useful plants, and the location of the world’s most important plant areas. We also present a country-wide focus, this year on Brazil. The second part of the report assesses our knowledge of global threats to plants. In particular, we review the potential impacts of climate change, land-use change, invasive plants, plant diseases, and extinction risk. The third part details international trade, as well as policies and international agreements that are in place to deal with some of the threats. There will inevitably be gaps in this report. We cannot claim to have covered all of the evidence currently available; this year is the beginning of an annual process, and in future years we will add to this knowledge base. However, by bringing the available information together into one document, we hope to raise the profile of plants among the global community and to highlight not only what we do know about threats, status and uses, but also what we don’t. This will help us to decide where more research effort and policy focus is required to preserve and enhance the essential role of plants in underpinning all aspects of human wellbeing.