Developing Data Resources for Calflora: Checklists
For several years Calflora has been looking for
high quality checklists (AKA
floristic surveys, botanical inventories).
In areas where we have succeeded in finding such lists,
often with the help of local CNPS chapters, the results
have been rewarding.
In an area of the state well-covered by checklist data,
The presumption is that there are many more checklists
out there which have not yet been contributed to Calflora.
The challenge is to find them, get permission, and get
them entered into Calflora.
This page describes the process.
the map-based applications
What Grows Here?
Places to view California Native Plants
work at their best,
showing users the full range of floristic diversity; and
botanists doing field work in the area
have a useful baseline of what plants to look for.
Qualities of an Ideal Checklist
Checklists that do not have all of these qualities
are often still quite useful.
The most important quality is reliability
of plant identification. Knowing who the responsible botanists
are can help determine the reliability of a list.
- The area covered by the list is relatively small;
for instance, one trail within a State Park.
- The botanist responsible for the list is known,
is still alive, is contactable, and agrees to contribute
the list to Calflora.
- Dates when the plants were observed are available.
- The area covered by the list is available in coordinates,
or is well enough described to be findable on a map.
- Plants are reliably identified.
- The list is available in some electronic form.
- The list is complete; that is, an attempt has been made to
mention all plants in the
Finding Checklists via Google
Using Google search, it is possible to find many
checklists which have been published online.
One approach to searching is to include "checklist" (or another
equivalent name) as a search term, such as:
"plant species list"
To limit the results, it is also useful
to include "California" as a search term.
Another effective technique for limiting results
is to include the name of a common California
plant -- for instance, you might include
Rhus ovata for coastal Southern California,
or Quercus agrifolia for the coast ranges.
Including a plant name will influence the
search results in two positive directions:
1. the documents found will actually
mention plants by scientific name, and 2.
if it is a plant that only grows in California,
the documents found will actually be about places in California.
A complete Google search specification might look like this:
"plant checklist" California "Quercus agrifolia"
This search produces the following
There are quite a few results on this page that look promising.
At the time of writing, the second result is this:
This document is in fact a checklist with scientific names,
so we will use it as an example below.
What information is available about the list?
Responsible Botanist and Contact Information
In the example document, it is clear that the responsible
botanist is Wayne P. Armstrong at Palomar College.
Following the links, it is possible to discover an
email address, but also a scary sounding copyright policy.
Next step: contact the botanist (Dr. Armstrong in this case) and ask for permission
to use the plant list on Calflora.
If you contact the botanist responsible
for the list, ntroduce yourself as a volunteer with Calflora.
Arguments in favor of
granting permission include
- it is a public service to allow
Calflora users to see the checklist data in the context of other contributed data;
- the checklist record on Calflora will link back
to the source web page (in this case the Jack's Pond page), so that interested users
will end up going to the source page for more information.
When a checklist appears on Calflora, there is a slot
for Source, which might be the botanist
herself, or a government entity or commercial organization which commissioned the
plant survey, or a not-for-profit organization whose mission is
protection of some area. It is important to know whatever institutions
were involved in the preparation and dissemination of the list,
in order to give due credit.
In one checklist record,
the value of Source is
City of Paso Robles; Padre Associates
indicating that the checklist was comissioned and published
on the web by the City of Paso Robles, but that the checklist
was prepared by Padre Associates.
In the example document, it appears that
the contributor would be the botanist himself.
In the example document, May, 2000. If multiple dates
are specified, use the most recent. If no date is specified, ask
for the most recent date when contacting the botanist.
Tips for Finding the Location
What Grows Here? / Find a Location in California,
and searching for a location named "jack" in San Diego Co.
result. The entry called "Jacks Pond Park" looks like
the place. What Grows Here? shows it as just east of San Marcos
or at 33.1306, -117.141.
Using Google Maps to search for
jack's pond, san marcos, california
result, which confirms the result above.
Technical Considerations: How to enter a checklist
Actually entering data into Calflora can be either
very fun or very intimidating.
It is fun in that you get to see the map applications
change as a direct result of your effort.
However, if you have found a good checklist,
obtained permission, but do not want
to do the data entry, please contact Calflora and someone
else will take care of entering it.
If you do want to do the data entry, here is how:
Bring up the
checklist entry application.
(You will need to
register as a contributor
before using this application to enter data.)
More details about using this page are available
Find the location of the checklist on the Google Map,
and enter the other data, including observers, source institution,
and date. If the list came from a web page, include the URL
at the bottom of the form.
To enter plant names press
In the panel that appears, press
Add a list of names.
At this point, you want to be able to paste
a list of scientific plant names, one per line, into the text area.
How to extract plant names from a document
If the source document is a spreadsheet, and one column
contains the whole scientific name, then just copy that
column and paste it into the text area.
If the source document is an HTML page, and the
scientific names are formatted neatly in a table,
you may be able to copy this text with the browser,
then paste it into the text area in the entry application. For instance,
if you are able to copy the following text:
Artemisia californica Coastal Sagebrush
Baccharis glutinosa Mule Fat
Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea Coyote Brush
Baccharis sarothroides Chaparral Broom
Brickellia californica var. californica Brickellbush
Centaurea melitensis Tocalote *
this will work just fine, because the entry application
ignores any words after the scientific name.
In the worst case, if the source document is an HTML page
or a PDF page and the plant names are interspersed among
other text, you may need to resort to the following procedure.
panel and press the SAVE button.
- Go to the
CNPLX checklist entry page.
Enter the URL of the source document. Press the Scan button.
- If the scan is successful, you will see a list of plants
on a result page. Use the browser to copy the entire list of plants.
(Don't worry about common name, lifeform, etc.)
- Paste the list into the text area of
the checklist entry application.