About Us

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  • Who are we?
  • Why did you create this website?
  • In Memory of Tim
  • A work in progress
  • Tim and Paul's Guiding Principles
  • Who are we?

    Tim Lukaszewski and Paul Preston.

    [Note from Paul. Tim died in 2019, and I’ve updated this information to reflect his passing.]

    Neither one of us were career botanists or professional photographers. But, we were passionate about plants. Although both of us had other professional careers, we both studied botany for many years and took field classes throughout California. Tim also had an M.S.in horticulture from UC Davis. We hiked and backpacked throughout California. As old-time antique collectors who used to prowl around shops and flea markets, we used our scavenger hunting skills to find plants. One of the benefits of seeking out native plants is that it took us to all 58 California counties. We got to spend time in coastal, mountain, desert, and forest habitats. Photographing native plants also takes up a lot less room than antiques.

    We were 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 also relied upon knowledgeable botanists who contributed photos to help fill in some of the gaps in our photos. We encourage you to contribute your own photos to expand the range and quality of this website (see Contributing Your Photos to Total-Plant).

    Why did you create this website?

    We hiked, botanized and photographed native plants for several decades. As we keyed out plants we saw, we routinely confirmed what we identified by looking at photos of the plant – sometimes in a book, sometimes online. The main problem we ran into is that, often, the photos that were available to us usually only showed a plant’s flower – not its leaf, fruit or even what the entire plant looks like. If we didn’t have the flower to help with identification, we weren’t always sure we got it right. To address this problem, we decided to create a collection of photos that shows a plant’s habitat, the entire plant, leaf, flower and fruit. This often meant 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. This is a great trend.

    In Memory of Tim

    from The San Francisco Chronicle

    Tim Lukaszewski (Jan 4, 1948 – May 4, 2019)

    Tim Lukaszewski, MD known affectionately by his hundreds of patients and colleagues throughout Alameda County as “Dr. Tim” died May 4, 2019. First diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2015 with a prognosis of 3-6 months, Tim managed to pack in several more years of living life to the fullest. As he wished, Tim died quietly at home in Berkeley with his husband of 38 years and love of his life, Paul Preston, at his bedside.

    After graduating from the University of Wisconsin Madison with a Biochemistry degree in 1969, Tim got his medical degree from Stanford in 1974. Dr. Tim went on to practice not only psychiatry but Primary Care medicine. He firmly believed that psychiatrists should not only help a patient’s mental health, but attend to their physical health as well. He always considered himself a hands-on physician. Throughout more than 40 years of practice, Dr. Tim devoted himself to caring for the severely and persistently mentally ill. A core tenet of his psychiatric practice was that clients should also benefit from access to appropriate resources and ongoing supportive services while in treatment.

    Dr. Tim was a staff psychiatrist at Asian Community Mental Health in Oakland from 1975 until 1997 when he became the Medical Director, retiring in 2015. Fluent in Spanish, he was also a psychiatrist and Assistant Medical Director at La Clinica de la Raza in Oakland from 1995 to 1997. Dr. Tim also worked as a psychiatrist for a number of agencies in Alameda County including Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services (ACCESS), the Strides Program, Eden Adult Outpatient Mental Health, Herrick Hospital and the Hayward Psychiatric Group.

    In addition to his medical career, Dr. Tim was truly a Renaissance man with multiple talents, diverse interests and an insatiable curiosity. In 1988, he received an M.S. in Horticulture from the University of California Davis, and later with his husband Paul created a website and database with over 60,000 photos of California native plants (http://total-plant.org). An accomplished pianist, Tim was also an a cappella singer and song arranger with “The Irrationals.” Together with his husband, Tim was the co-editor of The Bauer Quarterly, a publication about early 20th Century pottery. He loved creating art, especially botanical drawings, etchings and woodblock prints. He was even a finalist for a position on the reality show “Survivor.” Tim loved to travel throughout the world, photograph native flora in several states, backpack, garden and participate in marathons and triathlons. He especially enjoyed spending time with his many loving friends across the country. Everyone knew Dr. Tim as a straight-talker who was honest about what he believed. But, he also had wonderful sense of humor and loved to be silly, joke with his friends and display an amazingly quick wit.

    Born in Milwaukee in 1948, Tim was preceded in death by his father Bennie and his mother Birdie. Besides his husband Paul, Tim is survived by his brother David Lukaszewski (Fran) of Parker, CO; his sister Mary Eggers (Michael) of Safety Harbor, FL; his former sister-in-law Marsha Willis of Castle Rock, CO; his father-in-law Michael Preston of Greenfield, WI, and several cousins, nephews and nieces.

    When his cancer and treatments made it impossible for him to continue working, Dr. Tim wrote this in his retirement letter to his colleagues and staff:

    “I want to thank each and every one of you for your dedication, hard work, compassion and comradery. We have been a great team and have helped many people. A friend of ours once described the work we do as ‘the noble work.’ Please continue this important work to help those less fortunate than most of us. Finally, I want to remind all of you to stay healthy, set limits for yourself around work, go home to your families, and hold your friends close to your heart. Life is short and sometimes unfairly so. I have lived a healthy life – eating well, exercising regularly, and enjoying life outside work. I urge you to do the same. Stay mindful of the little joys and value every new day with your friends and loved ones.”

    Tim was grateful for all the kindness, love and support from his friends, family and the many Kaiser doctors, nurses and staff that cared for him over the course of his illness. He wanted to give special thanks to his husband Paul, his cousin Mark Latus of Milwaukee and his hospice nurse Patty Bresnan and her team.

    A Celebration of Tim’s life was held on September 7, 2019 at the Ed Roberts Campus at the Ashby BART Station.

    A work in progress

    An update from Paul. After Tim’s death, I wanted to keep the site going because it was so much a part of our life together. I’ve updated a few things as well as adding a few new photos. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, my plans to start traveling to see and photograph native plants have mostly come to a screeching halt.

    Even though Tim and I were at this for over 40 years, we were only able to scratch the surface of California’s native plants. As of 2020, there are nearly 4,000 California native plants in our database – out of over 10,000 California plants. Still a lot more to see and photograph. For some plants, we have incomplete photo sets. Our goal for this site has been to show a "Total-Plant" (habitat, plant, leaf, flower and fruit) for each of California’s native plants.

    Tim and Paul’s Guiding Principles of Native Plant Photography

  • When you come across a new plant and take a zillion photos, just around the corner there will be lots more and much better ones.
  • When you’re driving and spot a new plant, if you decide to keep going because surely there will be lots more of this plant just ahead – there won’t be.
  • Your favorite plant names are the most likely ones to be changed. RIP Zauschneria, Satureja and Hyptis.
  • When you plan to botanize in a new area, don’t be surprised if you never make it out of the parking lot.
  • Your circle of friends will change when you become a native plant photographer. Some friends will avoid walking or hiking with you because you are too slow. However, new friendships will develop because you are so slow.
  • Just like with elements in the periodic table, there will always be a plant family name that you’ve never seen or heard of before.
  • Unless you hike with an electron microscope, there will always be a critical tiny plant part necessary to ID a plant that you can’t make out for the life of you.
  • You can hike for miles all day looking for a particular plant only to discover that it’s growing right where you started.
  • Manual focus is always preferable to autofocus – until you turn 40.
  • Wind is your enemy.
  • You prefer photographing plants to people and animals because plants don’t move or talk back. (See exception above: Wind is your enemy.)
  • Poison oak is really an alien race with an agenda: it can disguise itself in any form and lurk in almost any habitat.
  • Even if hiking at high elevations causes you to be short of breath or get altitude sickness, at least you don’t have to keep watching out for poison oak.
  • Everyone has a favorite invasive plant that they secretly don’t mind if it spreads all over the place.