Questions & Definitions

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Do you feature only California native plants?

Our website's focus is on native California plants. We also botanize and photograph in other states that we regularly visit (Hawaii, New Mexico, Wisconsin). However, because we haven't covered these states as extensively as California, we decided not to expand our public database and website to include these additional states.

What is a "native" plant?

There are ongoing debates to determine whether or not a plant is "native." The most common definition is time-based: How long has a particular plant been in that area. But, disagreements arise regarding the cut-off date for "native": Is it thousands of years ago or hundreds? Some choose to set the colonization of North America as the beginning of plants being introduced from other lands. Others go back to fossil records, while still others adopt a more recent timeframe.

A further refinement of "native" is whether or not the plant was present without human intervention. However, many plants "arrive" in California through non-human means: ocean currents, storms, birds. Other plants may simply migrate from one area and spread to other locations - without regard to regional or national boundaries.

One example of this quandary in California is the Blue Gum Eucalyptus. Although originally imported from Australia to California over 100 years ago, these plants have reproduced naturally and have spread throughout much of California. Should Blue Gum be considered "native"? Some Californians think of Eucalyptus fondly, seeing them as an integral part of the California landscape. Others see Eucalyptus as invasive weeds, displacing other plants that were native to California hundreds or thousands of years prior to the arrival of Eucalyptus.

We have relied upon The Jepson Manual and Jepson's eFlora to determine whether a plant is native to California.

Can you help me identify a plant?

Hopefully, our website is useful in itself. We're pretty limited in how much time and energy we have to keep this website going as well as to hike and photograph new plants. However, we will try, within reason, to help you identify a plant if you email us your photo(s) (contact us). But, please, one plant at a time. There are other sites that can help identify plants. We've found that CalFlora's "What Grows Here?" ( can show all the plants that can be found in a particular area within California. Another California native identification source is CalPhotos ( Using their extensive search criteria, you can see photographs of the plant taken by any of several hundred amateur and professional botanists. inatualist ( you to post a photo and ask all those who have the app to respond. For us, the concern is that anyone can respond and post an answer - whether correct or not.

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, and photos of as many aspects of the plant as we have.

In the PHOTO GALLERY, 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.

What's the difference between a "fruit" and a "seed"?

For most plants on this site, our photos show a plant's fruit, not the seed. For example, an apple is the fruit, but there are seeds inside the fruit. 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 a plant, rather than the smaller seeds inside. Whenever possible (and the seed is not too minute), we may also have been able to show the actual seed. If you're interested in the actual plant seed, we suggest you check out:

Why do plants change names?

You may have other plant books or online resources that use different scientific plant names. Amateur and professional botanists continue to argue and agonize over ongoing plant name changes. Over the past few hundred years, many plants were "first" identified and catalogued by different people at different times. Sometimes, these were the same plant with different names. Other times, two different plants had the same name. Nor was there an agreed upon protocol for naming a plant. A further complication is that recent DNA research has led to reconsider whether a plant is or isn't related to apparently similar plants. This may require a name change not only in a particular plant, but entire Plant Families. There is now an International Code of taxonomists who monitor and approve plant names - whether it's changing a name or naming a new species. We have used the online version of The Jepson Manual (Jepson eFlora) to keep our site up to date on the currently agreed name for a plant. Whenever possible, we also include previous names in the Note section on a Plant ID sheet.