Who are we?
Tim Lukaszewski and Paul Preston. We’re neither career botanists nor professional photographers, but we're passionate about plants. Although we’ve both had other professional careers, both of us have studied botany for many years and taken field classes throughout California. Tim also has an M.S.in horticulture. We’ve hiked and backpacked throughout California. As old-time antique collectors who used to prowl around shops and flea markets, we now use our scavenger hunting skills to find plants. One of the wonderful benefits of seeking out native plants is that it has taken us to all 58 California counties, and we’ve gotten to spend time in coastal, mountain, desert, and forest habitats. Photographing native plants also takes up a lot less room than antiques.
We’ve been fortunate to add Gregg Weber to our team. He has been with us from the start of our database and website creation. Gregg is the ideal blend of programmer and botanist. Without his ongoing expertise and scrutiny, this site wouldn’t exist.
Although we took most of the photos on this website, we were fortunate to have knowledgeable botanists who contributed photos to help fill in some of the gaps. We encourage you to contribute your own photos to expand the range and quality of this website (Contributing Your Photos to Total-Plant).
We’ve been hiking, botanizing and photographing native plants for several decades. As we try to key out plants that we see, we try to confirm what we’ve identified by looking at photos of the plant – sometimes in a book, sometimes online. The main problem we’ve run into is that, often, the photos that are available only show a plant’s flower – not the leaf, fruit or entire plant. If we don’t have the flower to help with identification, we’re not always sure we’ve got it right. To address this problem, we decided to create a collection of photos that shows the plant’s habitat, the entire plant, leaf, flower and fruit. This often means going back at different times of the year to capture the “total plant.” We wanted to create a website that provides others with help identifying and learning about native plants. We’ve tried to make the site useful to a wide range of first-timers as well as seasoned professionals.
Our vision for Total Plant seems to have caught the native plant identification wave. Since we originally launched this website in 2013, more and more identification resources in California as well as other sites now include a lot of the same ideas to help identify plants – that is, not only by their flower, but by other parts like leaves, fruit or habitat. Several sites have developed MEKA keys which allow you to identify plants other than by just flowers. We think this is a great trend.
Even though we’ve been at this for over 40 years, we’ve only scratched the surface of California’s native plants. Right now, we have photos of over 3,000 California native plants in our database – out of nearly 8,000 California plants. Not only are there many native plants that we haven’t seen or photographed, but we don’t have a complete set of photos for the plants we’ve seen. Our goal is to show a "Total-Plant" (habitat, plant, leaf, flower and fruit) for each of California’s native plants.
We’re trying to make our site more user-friendly – especially to those who might be just curious or starting to learn about plants. Besides simplifying the site’s organization, we now include more illustrations and tool-tips with photo examples.