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  • Glossary
  • The Jepson Manual and ITIS
  • What is a Plant ID sheet?
  • Flower Colors
  • What’s the difference between "Floristic Province," "Location" and "Trail"?
  • Fruit or seed?

  • Glossary

    We generally follow the Jepson Manual as far as terms used for specific plant parts. For simplicity, we made some decisions to collapse certain plant characteristics under one label (e.g., "thorns" includes prickles, barbs, spines as well as thorns). The CalFlora website offers an extensive botanical glossary at:

    Jepson eFlora and ITIS

    We use the online Jepson eFlora for scientific and common names of California plants, as well as the most recent realignment of plant families. We also adopt Jepson’s use of "subsp." for subspecies and "var." for variety. To tie this plant information to a broader community of botanists and plant enthusiasts, we also include a plant’s ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Integrated System) scientific name and number. ITIS names are often, but not always the same as Jepson’s.

    What is a Plant ID Sheet?

    The Plant ID Sheet displays the plant’s scientific name, common name, family, plant form (e.g., tree, shrub, vine, perennial, annual), flower color(s), bloom time, ITIS name and number, and photos of as many aspects of the plant as we have.

    Flower Color

    We tried to simplify flower color choices and not drive ourselves (and others) crazy with too many color choices. We use "flower color" in a gestalt way – when you look at a flower, what color is it mostly? If a flower has big yellow petals but red anthers, we’ll say that it’s a "yellow" flower. If a flower is more than one color (e.g., white ray flowers, yellow disk flowers), then we will say it is yellow and white. Probably the biggest quagmire we ran into was whether to call the color choice "purple" or "violet." There are many strong opinions about which term is lighter, darker or more correct. We’ve taken the easy way out by using "purple / violet."

    What’s the difference between "Floristic Province," "Location" and "Trail"?

    Generally, these go from larger areas (Province) to more specific sites (Trail). "Floristic Province" refers to larger regions that have particular geologic characteristics and plant communities. For California, we use the Floristic Provinces described in the Jepson Manual – for example, Sierra Nevada or San Francisco Bay Area. A "Location" is a more specific site usually within one Floristic Province – for example, Yosemite National Park or Huckleberry Preserve. A "Trail" is even more specific – the name of a trail or area within a location. For example, Boy Scout Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. If your search for a plant comes up empty-handed, it could be that we didn’t see or photograph a plant at that particular site, even though the plant really does grow there. In that case, try making your search more general. One problem you might run into is that if you are looking for a particular plant that you’ve seen somewhere, we may have seen it there but photographed it somewhere else. So, if you search for a plant in a specific location you might not get any results. If you leave the Province, Location or Trail fields to their default setting ("any"), then you’ll see if we’ve ever seen and photographed that plant.

    Fruit or seed?

    For most plants, our photos show the fruit, not the seed (think entire apple vs small apple seeds inside the apple). Our fruit photos may show a pod, pome, capsule, silique or other structure that contains the seeds. For many of us, the larger structure is what we mainly see when we look at the plant, rather than the smaller seeds inside. Whenever possible (and the seed is not too minute), we may have been able to show the actual seed. If you’re interested in the actual plant seed, we suggest you check out: