Revised, rebranded OregonFlora has new and expanded plant information
Looking for an online resource with information about the native and naturalized plants of Oregon?
The Oregon Flora Project’s newly expanded website, OregonFlora, will meet the need.
Rich with details about more than 4,670 unique species of ferns, conifers, herbs, grasses, and trees, it presents information that is valuable to horticulturalists, gardeners and plant lovers of all kinds.
The launch of the OregonFlora website also corresponds with a name change of the Oregon Flora Project to simply “OregonFlora.” Why change? The decision to retire the “project” part of our name reflects the broader scope of work in which we are now engaging.
The core information that is used to write the Flora — each plant’s characteristics, where it grows, and what it is related to — is relevant to a diverse audience. OregonFlora is creating new partnerships to make this information broadly accessible and useful, especially to those in the nursery and landscaping industry.
Plants that are now used in the horticultural trade had their origins in the wild. Knowing a plant’s characteristics outside of cultivation — its form, flowering characteristics, and preferred habitats — can provide insights into ways a species can be successfully integrated into a planted environment.
A resource on plant life
Floras have long served as a primary source of information about the plant life of a given region. Ranging in size and scope from a pamphlet for a neighborhood to a multi-volume work describing a continent, floras itemize all the species that occur in the defined area, describe each in detail, and provide a means to identify them. Importantly, a flora also provides the context in which a plant species is found through descriptions of its habitat, ecology, and distribution.
Adapting a paper-bound flora into an online resource involves much more than posting pages from a book. OregonFlora has carefully parsed the myriad details of Volume 1 of the Flora of Oregon into fields and tables of a database. As the content of the remaining two Flora volumes is being written, it is being prepared similarly.
Hundreds of thousands of map coordinates that document plant occurrences, more than 50,000 photographs, and data for specialized topics are being added to the database for the OregonFlora website.
The OregonFlora website uses a Symbiota platform — software designed for presenting and sharing biodiversity data. One tool that demonstrates the powerful data-sharing features of the site is the GIS-based mapping module. Plant occurrence records from observations and herbarium specimen labels are mapped onto a variety of base maps.
Users can upload their own datasets — for example, localities of pollinators — to study the relationship of their subject with plant distributions. The shapefile of an area of interest can also be uploaded to determine the plant diversity within the defined space.
Table 1: Categories within the Gardening with Natives search tool
|Characteristics||Uses||Wildlife Support||Growing Conditions|
|Plant form||Landscape uses||Pollinators||Ease of growth|
|Annual/Perennial||Other cultivation preferences||Pest-eating insects||Sunlight tolerance|
|Evergreen/Deciduous||Butterfly nectar source||Water preference in summer|
|Height/Width||Butterfly larval host||Spreads vigorously|
|Bloom months||Hummingbirds||Propagation methods|
|Flower color||Birds and small mammals||Natural habitat|
A species profile page from the OregonFlora Gardening with Natives portal. A page exists for each of the ~200 native garden species featured.
Gardening with natives
A new feature on the OregonFlora website is the Gardening with Natives portal. In collaboration with Metro and the ACE NW Native Plant Database Working Group, we have developed educational and garden planning tools that incorporates almost 200 native plant species.
A search tool allows users to choose plant features of interest. There are 20 characteristics for selection that describe physical features of the plant, cultivation conditions, uses in the garden, wildlife support, and propagation (Table 1).
The commercial availability of a native species is indicated with a market basket icon: three baskets indicate it is commonly found in stores, whereas one basket indicates the species is carried by a few vendors. Website users can also select a business as one of their search parameters.
Linking the commercial availability of native plant species with educational and garden planning tools is a powerful marketing tool for retail and wholesale vendors. It also provides customers with needed information about the accessibility of materials for their gardens and landscaping projects.
A second way to explore OregonFlora’s gardening resources is by browsing collections of plants suitable for unique garden and landscape types, such as meadowscapes, woodland gardens, pollinator gardens and others. Images of the plants in a collection can be viewed in a slide show.
Each garden species has a profile page with photos and cultivation details (Figure 1). There is also a link to the species’ “traditional” profile page, which presents information derived from the Flora of Oregon, a statewide distribution map, and external links.
The new OregonFlora website and its “Gardening with Natives” tools were designed to support the interests of both the producers and the consumers of native plant materials (Figure 2). We welcome your feedback!
Linda K. Hardison is the director of OregonFlora and an assistant professor (senior research) at Oregon State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.