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Frequently Asked Questions

General questions:

Questions about Searches:

Other Questions:

Q: Why can't I find any information on ...?
    Calflora only has geographic and ecological distribution information on vascular plants that are native (indigenous) or naturalized (growing, reproducing and persisting in the wild without human intervention) to the political borders of California. Calflora DOES NOT contain information on plants that are growing with human intervention (generally: being watered, sheltered or cared for in some way) These include plants in gardens, manicured parks, or strictly agricultural weeds. If the plant you are looking for is not native or naturalized in California, it will not be in Calflora. This includes plants such as tulips, daffodils, rosemary, lemon trees, or any strictly horticultural plant growing in California. You may also have a mis-spelling or spelling variation of the plant's name (see the section on Common Names below.)
Q: Can you give me more information about a particular California plant?
    All the information available through Calflora and the CalPhotos collection is available on the web. So your search results represent everything that we have available to the public. We do not have a physical library of information to refer to or experts available for public services. Our research primarily concerns the use of already-digitized botanical information, including images, location, and collection information. Calflora does not currently contain information on medicinal, ethnobotanical, horticultural, physiological, or economic topics.

    The California Academy of Sciences, Biodiversity Resource Center has an excellent reference staff for general questions.

Q: Can you add me to the announcements email list?
    We send out an email of changes and updates to the Calflora and CalPhotos web pages occasionally, as changes dictate. If you would like to be on the mailing list for these announcements, please email us here: CONTACT with your request and email address.
Q: How can I grow California Poppies? (or some other plant)
    Neither Calflora nor the CalPhotos collection currently have information on horticulture or growing California native plants. There are many, many other sources of information for growing California native plants (mostly books). You may wish to consult a gardening book such as Sunset Western Garden Book or the California Native Plant Society Booksales.

    Other online horticultural information for native plants is sometimes available on CNPLX. From the bottom of a Calflora Taxon Report page (for instance, the page for Arctostaphylos bakeri), try clicking through to the CNPLX page for the same plant -- in this case, there are several entries from native nurseries about how to grow this plant.

Q: I have this plant; can you tell me what it is? Q: I am looking for a plant by the common name of ...? or do you know a common name for this plant?
    Common names, unlike scientific names, are not regulated or managed by any one body. Thus, many common names are idiosyncratic. There are many common names that are:
    • identical, but refer to different plants...
    • different, but refer to the same plant...
    • used frequently in one location, but have never been heard of just a few miles away...
    • and some plants simply do not have any common name.

    Calflora has collected common names from some major sources, but it is nearly impossible to collect all the common names that exist for all California plants. If you can not find a plant by common name that you are sure is in California, you will probably need to find out the scientific name for it first, then try searching Calflora. We hope in the near future to standardize the common names we do have. (according to guidelines such as Common Names for Vascular Plants: Guidelines for use and application Kartesz & Thieret, Sida 14(3):421-434. 1991.) Scientific Names can be translated using the experimental California Plant Synonymy table.
Q: I think there is an error in the Calflora occurrence database. Who should I contact to correct it?
    The occurrence database is collection of information from many different sources. In a real library, you generally wouldn't report an error in a book to the librarian -- you would report the error to the author or editor, and they might fix it in the next edition. Following this model, when you found an error in the Calflora observation database, you would let the source institution or individual know about the error, and then they would fix it online or send Calflora a corrected copy.

    In the actual situation, however, people are busy, and (with good reason) do not want their email addresses in plain view on the Calflora website. So, if you see an error, please contact us here: CONTACT and we will do our best to contact the source and respond.

Q: How do I find all of the plants that grow wild in my county?
    There are several ways to ask for all of the wild plants in a county. The examples below all concern Marin Co., but the same query techniques can be applied to any other county.
  • The simplest approach is to use the Search for Plants page, and choose the county name. Here is the result without photos and grouped by family: (If you get tired of paging through the list, select the "plain text" option to see the whole list on one page:
  • Another approach is to use the Search for Plant Observations page, choose the county name, and choose "Species list" from the DISPLAY options. Here is the result grouped by family:
    On this page you can choose what documentation types you want to see. Marin Plants C above includes all documentation types. Here is the same query showing only observations whose documentation type is 'specimen', 'documented', or 'reported' (not 'literature'): And here is a more restrictive form of the same query, showing only observations whose documentation type is 'specimen' (not 'documented', 'reported', or 'literature'):  
    Choosing a reference authority (how synonyms are resolved) also has an effect on the apparent number of plants. Marin Plants C above was done with respect to current names and synonyms from ICPN, XWALK, and CNPS, and was therefore missing any synonyms that are only available from USDA PLANTS. Here is the same query, but with the reference authority set to ALL (which includes USDA PLANTS):
  • The graphical approach: use What Grows Here?, get the county boundaries lined up roughly inside the map, and ask for all plants. This search will only consider observations which are georeferenced. Here is the result without photos and grouped by family, including part of Sonoma Co., and where there are at least two records of each plant:

Q: How do I cite a reference to your online database?

    Please reference all photographs, documents, or database information that you use within your document. For general references that refer to aggregated information in Calflora, this is the suggested citaion format:

    EXAMPLE 1: General Reference

      Calflora: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation.
        [web application]. 2014. Berkeley, California: The Calflora Database [a non-profit organization].
        Available: (Accessed: Oct 20, 2014).

    Calflora is a library of information from other sources. Therefore, when you cite specific information found on a Calflora webpage, whenever possible please include a reference to the actual source of the information. This is particularly relevant to observation data, so that the people and institutions who did the work get the credit.

    EXAMPLE 2: Specific Reference including sources of observation data

      Calflora: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation.
        [web application]. 2014. Berkeley, California: The Calflora Database [a non-profit organization].
        Available: (Accessed: Oct 20, 2014).

        Search for observations of Erythronium helenae
        Distribution data from Jeff Greenhouse, Peter Warner, UC Riverside Herbarium, and G. F. Hrusa checklists.

    The date of access is important, since the database changes. Including the exact URL will enable readers to duplicate the query. If photos are part of what you are citing, please include the photographer's name and copyright.
Q: Where can I find a source for California plants, seeds, etc?
    If you are looking for sources for garden material, nursery availability for some California native plants is available on CNPLX. From the bottom of a Calflora Taxon Report page (for instance, the page for Arctostaphylos bakeri), try clicking through to the CNPLX page for the same plant -- in this case, there are about fifteen nurseries all over the state that sell this plant.

    Your local CNPS chapter may have a fall or spring plant sale -- a CNPS plant sale can be an excellent opportunity to get locally appropriate plants and meet other native gardeners.

    Also, your local nursery can order many California native plants from their suppliers. There are also many specialty mail-order seed and plant catalogs for California native plants. Check out some of the collected lists for gardening supplies for sources. (such as the Internet directory for botany)

    If you are looking for sources for material for botanical study and experiments, you will probably want to contact one of California's many Botanical Gardens or Herbaria, who can help you locate live material and file the appropriate permits for collection of wild material. A list of Californian botanical gardens is available from the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta. Herbaria can be located through Index Herbariorum (enter CA for state)

Q: What is the relationship of Calflora to CalPhotos?
    Calflora is an independantly funded and run non-profit organization dedicated to providing information about California wild plants in useful forms to the public. Calflora partners with individuals, organizations, and agencies to further this mission. The Berkeley Digital Library Project is a research project in the Computer Science Division of UC Berkeley, and has for several years used environmental information as a testbed for developing new computer science technologies. Together, we have found a fruitful collaboration in image, spatial, temporal, and scientific information management that has greatly benifited both organizations. Calflora works under a agreement to share information and data resources with DLP.