Helpful Hints

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Plants are extremely variable. Depending on growth conditions, the same plant may be large or small, exhibit differently shaped leaves, or vary in flower color. To identify a plant, look around for other similar plants. Even on the same plant, are all the leaves the same? Get a sense of what's average or typical. On our site's, you'll see variations in a plant's characteristics - whether habitat, plant, leaf, flower or fruit. Total-Plant is trying to capture as much as possible about a plant - including showing its variability.

If you use our Flower or Leaf ID searches, you will see the best photo examples we have of that plant's flower or leaf - but it's only one photo of each characteristic. If a plant you're trying to identify doesn't look exactly like the first photos that comes up for a plant, click on the plant's name and go to the Plant ID sheet for that plant. This will show you all the photos we have of that plant - including variations in leaf shape, flower color, habitat and overall plant shape.

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 obviously more than one color (e.g., blue and white), you can choose more than one color. 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."

Not all plants in a Location are in our database

On the PHOTO GALLERY page, specifying the "Location" may lead to disappointing search results. Search results only show where a plant was found and photographed - not everywhere that plant can be found. We've tried but failed to be everywhere at all times.

Jepson eFlora

We use the online Jepson eFlora for scientific and common names of California plants. We also adopt Jepson's use of "subsp." for subspecies and "var." for variety.

We also generally follow the Jepson for terms used to describe specific plant parts. For simplicity, we collapsed 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:

Non-native plants and Horticultural plants

Although we're focusing only on native California plants, there are some non-native plants that cloud the issue. Certain non-native and horticultural plants have naturalized -- spread and established themselves in California. Generally, we have not included these in our website, but a few plants are noticeable and widespread. For those non-native plants that we did include, the Plant ID sheet will indicate whether a plant is not native to California.

Leaf ID

Our "Leaf ID" function is newly developed. Until now, there hasn't been an online Leaf ID for native plants throughout California.. Successful Leaf ID resources do exist, but are generally limited to specific locales and/or specific types of plants (e.g., oaks of New England). The caveat is that we haven't yet covered all of California's native plants -- but we do cover many different parts of California. We wanted to create a Leaf key that was relatively easy for novices, but rigorous enough for seasoned botanists. There were a lot of decisions to make, and long debates about whether to "lump" or "split" certain leaf characteristics. For clarity and simplicity, we sacrificed some minute details that were overbearingly complicated. We added illustrations as well as real-life examples from our PHOTO GALLERY. As much as possible, we also wanted to have leaf photos reflect the variability of a particular plant. We hope we found a happy medium.

Using this website and photos

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Copyright & Fair Usage

Although we have taken most of the photos, a variety of individuals and organizations have also contributed photos to our Total-Plant database. Please be aware that these contributors have donated their photo(s) for use on our database, but ultimately they maintain copyright of their images.

Our database allows Fair Use for the thumbnail photos that appear on Total-Plant. (See below.)

If you want to use larger images of any of the photos on Total-Plant, please contact us. (See below.)

If you are interested in contributing photos to our database, please go to our "Contributing Photos" button.

Using the Thumbnails

The thumbnail photos are the small photos that appear in the "browse" pages when you do a search. Thumbnails can be used without prior permission under the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Law of the United States as long as you include the proper credit for the photo - the name(s) of the photographer and the year the photo taken. Here is an example link to a thumbnail photo: ".

Using the Larger Images

Fair Use does not cover the images that are larger than the thumbnail size. This applies to downloading and saving the image on your own computer, as well as including a link on your web page that results in the image being displayed on your page. To use any of those photos, please contact us by email and specify which larger photo(s) you are interested in, and who the photographer is. Name and date is provided with each image and can be found on each photo's "detail" page. We will take it from there and let you know. In some cases you may need to pay a licensing fee or reproduction expenses to use the image. Or, you may be able to order a slide or a higher resolution version of the photo.

Linking to

You can create a link on your web page that users can click on to see any page you see on plant ID For example, a Plant search for "Cactaceae" will bring up a page of thumbnail images that match the query. You can use the URL for that search as a link on your website. You may not create links to individual images on your website, for example " is not permitted.

Citing Total-Plant

This is the recommended format for citing Total-Plant: Total-Plant. 2019. Accessed on February 2, 2019. Available online at: Replace the date (month, day, year) in this example with the date you accessed the site.