By Sean Nealon
OregonFlora, an Oregon State University-based organization devoted to the state’s plants, has launched a revamped website that makes its database of over 4,700 plant species that grow in the wild in Oregon more broadly accessible.
“This really opens up the world of Oregon plants to everybody, not just scholars,” said Linda Hardison, director of Oregon Flora and a research assistant professor at in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State. “It makes plant information accessible to anybody who is curious.”
OregonFlora has had a searchable website for about 15 years, but it was previously geared more toward plant experts. Now, it’s much more user-friendly with a searchable database that includes more than 46,000 color photos of plants in the wild in Oregon, Hardison said.
“Now you can come to the site and search to whatever level you are interested in,” Hardison said. “That’s different. You don’t have to know plant scientific names to get started.”
The site has tools for users to: identify plants seen in Oregon; find the right native plant for a garden or landscape; find where plant species are found in the wild in Oregon; and explore the collections of the OSU Herbarium, which houses dried plant specimens.
The revamped website is geared toward a wide range of audiences, Hardison said. Someone may want to identify a plant they saw on a hike. A land manager may need to know the rare plants they should protect and invasive plants they should remove in an area. A scientist in Oregon or elsewhere in the world may want to know where a particular plant species has been found in the state, and how climate change could be changing that distribution.
“The planet is changing. Our climate is changing,” Hardison said. “To know what has been here gives us a perspective of the diversity of plant life, and it can also help us model what might be better adapted to these changing conditions. This new website is both like looking over your shoulder at the natural history of our region and also using a telescope to look forward to anticipate how we can coexist with our changing planet.”
In addition to the website, OregonFlora, in collaboration with Oregon State and Botanical Research Institute of Texas Press, produced “Flora of Oregon Volume 1: Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms, and Monocots,” is the first volume of a comprehensive, illustrated plant guide for the state in over 50 years,. The 608-page book, published in 2015, addresses ferns, conifers, grasses, sedges and lilies.
Volume 2 is in press and can be preordered now; Volume 3, the final volume, is expected to be available in early 2023. Each volume contains front chapters on topics of general interest, such as wildflower hikes, landscaping with natives and pollinator-plant interactions.
Oregon Flora also created the Oregon wildflowers app, which can help identify more than 1,050 common wildflowers, shrubs, and vines found in Oregon and adjacent areas of Washington, Idaho and northern California.
Video: Stephen Ward