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Plants News Archive

Plants News Archive

10-01-2013 - PLANTS and the Federal Government shut-down

For the time being, PLANTS will remain operational despite the Federal Government shut-down. However, in the absence of funding there will be no website maintenance, and no website repair in the event of technical problems. The webmaster will resume operations when the government reopens. Please see the various Federal Government agency shut-down contingency plans at Thank you for visiting PLANTS.


10-14-2009 - PLANTS Characteristics Data Update

National Plant Data Team staff finished a major update of the PLANTS Characteristics data. Staff made over 3000 changes and corrections to this widely used ecology data set that covers about 2500 species and cultivars. Internal data consistency checks improved the integrity of the data and enforced Characteristics Data Definitions rules. PLANTS Characteristics data are also the foundation of the VegSpec application.


09-30-2009 - New Plant ID Keys Posted

Interactive keys have been posted recently for Ericaceae for all 50 U.S. states, and legumes (Fabaceae) for all 50 U.S. states and territories.


04-20-2009 - Using Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation Biology Technical Note No. 78 Released

Technical Note TN.190.B.78 - Using Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation, (PDF; 278KB) is now available. Bees and other pollinators are essential for production of many crops, and are critical components of natural ecosystems, since they feed other wildlife directly and indirectly by pollinating the flowers that produce fruits and seeds. Pollinators are also wildlife, so many existing Farm Bill conservation practices that are currently used to improve wildlife habitat can be applied to insect and vertebrate pollinators. This technical note provides detailed suggestions for field personnel and NRCS State offices to move quickly to increase pollinator populations for healthier and more profitable agro-ecosystems. Of particular interest is a comprehensive review of all NRCS conservation practices that can be adapted to conserving pollinators through habitat creation, modification, and improvement. This Technical Note is also available through the NRCS eDirectives system under Technical Notes – Title 190 Ecological Sciences – Biology.

Other useful documents for NRCS pollinator conservation activities that may also appeal to the general public are at


07-23-2008 - Distribution Documentation Added as Mouseover Text to PLANTS

National Information Technology Center staff added mouseover text documentation for PLANTS distribution data to the PLANTS state distribution map. That?s right, no more guessing where the distributions come from! On any PLANTS Profile distribution map, roll your mouse over any state where a plant occurs and the documentation for that distribution appears in a text box. Documentation is segregated into three types: literature reports, herbarium specimens, and observations from the PLANTS Distribution Update. PLANTS county maps will soon show documentation in an identical manner.

Additionally, all this documentation is now shown at the Data Source and Documentation link at the top of each profile along with other references for that plant that are used at PLANTS. You can now sort the documentation to easily see how state distributions are supported, and copy this for future reference. As always, if you think our information can be improved, please contact us.


01-01-2008 - PLANTS Downloads Enhanced

We improved the data structure for all the PLANTS downloads so that the information is easier to use and import, and we placed a new download link on every results page so query results are readily available in tabular form.


01-01-2008 - Alaska County-level Distribution Added to PLANTS

With the help of Dr. Alan Batten (University of Alaska – Fairbanks Herbarium), we added plant specimen documentation for Alaska boroughs that totaled about 90,000 records. PLANTS now lacks county distribution for only one state, Maryland.


01-01-2008 - PLANTS Includes Canada to Extend North American Coverage

We are pleased to announce that through the generosity of Dr. Luc Brouillet (Universit? de Montr?al) and his Canadian colleagues, we added thousands of missing Canadian taxa with their attributes and distribution, and thereby restored the integrity of PLANTS data for North America north of Mexico. Included are the French territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and the Danish province of Greenland, the largest island in the world. This phytogeographic unification will make it easier for floristic and monographic workers to use PLANTS, since taxonomic groups are now complete for temperate North America, and important northern areas are fully represented. Collaboration and coordination with the Flora of North America project will be enhanced. NRCS field staff and other agency managers will have a fuller appreciation of many important conservation plants.

Please note that integration of this Canadian data set was difficult because of unavoidable taxonomic conflicts, so undoubtedly some mistakes remain. Please bear with us as we identify and correct them, and contact us if you see problems.


01-01-2008 - PLANTS Major Data Update Completed

National Plant Data Team staff completed a significant review of PLANTS names and relationships, and made tens of thousands of revisions and additions. We appreciate the help of several expert taxonomists in this work, none more than Dr. Kanchi Gandhi (International Plant Names Index) and Dr. John Wiersema (USDA ARS Germplasm Resources Information Network). Chief among these improvements, we:

  • Corrected hundreds of cryptic scientific name misspellings, and evaluated orthographic variants to ensure the correct variant was accepted under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. rules.
  • Corrected thousands of scientific name authorities, and made upwards of 30,000 revisions to author abbreviations in accordance with the international standard, Authors of Plant Names (APN). Currently, most individual author names that occur more than six times in the PLANTS database of almost 91,000 records have been evaluated and converted to the APN standard. This work will continue as time allows. We also looked carefully at Latin basionyms and basionym epithets to be sure that authors were being used consistently among these related names.
  • Ran dozens of internal consistency and data integrity checks involving?among other things?assignment of synonyms and use of formal Latin emendations.
  • Identified and populated data gaps wherever possible.


01-01-2008 - PLANTS Native Status Data Completely Revised and Expanded

We improved information about plant native status by breaking the PLANTS Floristic Area or PFA (which is North America, and all U.S. territories and protectorates) into regional jurisdictions, each of which now has its own Native Status value. We also evaluated and corrected many data points, and filled in all but a few values that remain blank for problematic species and places. This improvement is significant because the PFA is so vast that many plants are native in some parts and introduced in others; we are now better able to illustrate this phenomenon and provide more accurate information. For example, many North American natives are troublesome Hawaiian weeds, and previously these plants were considered native throughout their range. These plants are now shown as native in North America, and introduced to Hawaii. The new Native Status jurisdictions are:

L48Lower 48 States
PRPuerto Rico
VIU.S. Virgin Islands
GLGreenland (Denmark)
SPMSt. Pierre and Miquelon (France)
NANorth America (non-vascular Native Status is at this level only)


01-01-2008 - PLANTS Identification

New interactive keys are now available for all U.S. gymnosperm species and all grass (Poaceae) species in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These complement our widely-used U.S. wetland monocots keys.

All are freely available for use online, or for downloading for use with or without a web connection. In addition to dramatically optimizing the identification process, these keys are very rich sources of descriptive data. For example, nearly 300 character states are recorded for every species of grass. These key data are free and can be used in other applications. Each species in the key also directly links to the appropriate profile page on PLANTS, which includes images, common names, distribution maps, synonyms, wetland indicator status, native status, wildlife habitat values, and other useful information.

Monocot data were developed cooperatively by the Missouri Botanical Garden and the USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, and were compiled from numerous sources by Dr. David Bogler. The gymnosperm data were developed cooperatively by Oregon State University and compiled from several sources by Stephen C. Meyers and collaborators.


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