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About Calflora


What Grows Here is a Calflora web application which shows what plants have been observed growing near a particular place. Through this interface, users can pick a place in California by any of several different approaches (eg. by town, zip code, watershed, park etc.). Results are displayed in a list, with or without photos, and as points on a relief map.

What Grows Here is a suite of web applications, developed thus far with the generous support of the Ji Ji Foundation and the San Francisco Estuary Project.

Please write us with questions or comments about this application -- your feedback helps us to figure out what works and what doesn't work.

How to begin
To use the application as a wizard, begin on this page: What Grows Here? To answer the question, there are several way to define here (the abstract sense of location) -- for instance, in or near a town, within a zip code, in the watershed of a particular creek, etc. On this first page, begin by choosing what here is going to mean.

Another way to start is on the Find a Location in California page, where you may enter a name, county, or feature, and choose from a list of matching entries. Click on a named location to go to a What Grows Here Detail page, with a map centered on the chosen location.

Once you get to a What Grows Here Detail page (for instance, the area around the town of Buellton in Santa Barbara County), you can look at the map through any of several geographical themes: that is, with simple topography, or with watersheds, zip codes, or parks highlighted. Move to a different location by clicking on a highlighted area or by dragging the icon in the center of the map. Use Map Attributes on the left to zoom in or out, and control whether towns, streams, or mountains are labeled on the map. Finally (and most important), press the Search for Plants button to see a list of species which have been observed in the selected area.

Geographic Themes:
... by Watershed
Using this geographic theme, you can find out what plants have been observed growing in or near a particular watershed.

If the watershed you are interested in is in the Bay Area, begin by choosing a county on this page: Bay Area Watersheds

Otherwise, pick a county from the following list to begin:

EXAMPLE: Native Perennials found in the Lower Russian River Watershed (Sonoma County)

    About Watershed Data: Watershed regions are courtesy of Calwater 2.2.1 (see the description of Calwater on the USDA NRCS California website). Calwater has arranged watersheds in the state into hierarchic levels. This application makes four levels available, from Hydrologic Unit (highest level) through Hydrologic Area and Super Planning Watershed to Planning Watershed (lowest level).

    Note that in the Calwater system, the boundaries between adjacent regions may indicate either 1. a ridgeline separating two drainages, or 2. a connecting (upstream/downstream) drainage. Consider this picture of the Super Planning Watershed named Lower Big River near the town of Mendocino: Lower Big River.

    In this picture, the relationship between the two regions Lower Big River 1113.3004 (shaded green) and Albion River 1113.4000 (directly south, unshaded) is that they are different drainages, separated by a ridge line.

    But in the same picture, the relationship between the two regions Lower Big River 1113.3004 (shaded green) and Upper Big River 1113.3002 (directly east, shaded yellow) is that they are essentially the same drainage. The boundary between them does not mark a ridgeline, but rather a place where the upper flows into the lower.

    It can be difficult to determine the relationship between adjacent Calwater watershed regions from topography alone, particularly when the country is not mountainous. In this rendition of the Calwater data, shading has been added to make it easier to see the relationships between adjacent regions. At whatever level of resolution, the target region is shaded green, and adjacent regions which are "siblings" of the target area are shaded yellow.

    In the case of this example, Lower Big River 1113.3004 and Upper Big River 1113.3002 are siblings of one another because they share the same parent (the Hydrologic Area Big River 1113.3 ).

    It the Calwater system, it is often the case that regions which are siblings of one another flow together (eg. Upper Big River flows into Lower Big River), but not always, particularly on the coast. Consider the same example, but at a lower level of resolution: Mouth of Big River. Note that Caspar Creek 1113.300404 and Russian Gulch 1113.300405 are clasified as siblings of Mouth of Big River 1113.300403 , but that they each of them flow into the ocean independently.

... by Open Space
Using this geographic theme, you can find out what plants have been observed growing in or near a particular open space. Open space here is a catch-all phrase to include various protected lands, including parks, reserves, state and federal forests, BLM land, and regional open space areas.

Note that not all open space areas are publically accessible. Within this theme, areas are color coded as to accessibility. Click About this Location / Access Key in the upper right to see the meaning of each polygon color with respect to accesibility.

... by Zip Code
... by Resource Area
    About the Data: Common Resource Areas (CRA) are geographic areas defined by the NRCS as "geographical area where resource concerns, problems, or treatment needs are similar." A CRA is a subdivision of a Major Land Resource Area (MLRA).
Plant Selection
    Within. Select Within map area to find plants within the entire visible area of the map. Select Within selected polygon to find plants only within the selected polygon, if any (park, watershed, zip code, quad, etc.).

    Status. Select native for native plants, non-native for non-native plants, weed for plants considered weeds by Cal-IPC, or rare for native plants considered rare by CNPS.

    Lifeform. Select a particular lifeform of interest; for instance, Tree.

    Output. In what form would you like to see the results? Select photo to see a table including a photo for each plant (when available). Select no photo to see the same table without photos.

    To get the result data back in a form that can be pasted into a spreadsheet, select plain text, tab delimiter, then

      1. highlight the relevant text in the browser window and copy it
      2. open the spreadsheet, and paste the text into the speadsheet. (In Excell, use "paste special" and "text".)

    (If there is any difficulty with this approach, open a text file, paste the text into the text file, save the file, and then use the spreadsheet's import wizard to bring the text into the spreadsheet.)

    Group by. Select Lifeform to group all of the annuals together, all of the perennials together, etc. Select Family to group the plants by family.

    Genus. For example, enter Arctostaphylos to find just manzanitas in the target area.

Background of this Project
Calflora has specialized in answering the question "Where does this plant grow in California?" -- by returning photographs, tables of observation data, and other information about the plant the user asked about. This project seeks to answer the complimentary question "What grows here?" for any particular location.

Using the "What Grows Here" interface:

  • A home owner can find out what grows on or near her property, as a source of inspiration for locally appropriate landscaping
  • A restorationist can build a list of marsh plants suitable for a project site, and then follow links to the California Native Plant Link Exchange to find local nurseries that can provide those plant materials
  • A junior high classroom can build a list of the rare plants that grow close to their school
  • A land manager can view the pattern of Cal-IPC-listed weeds on a relief map of a tract of range land
  • An agency botanist can view a list of plants expected to occur within the regions covered by a set of topographic maps, ahead of a field survey
  • A community group can view the list of rare or significant plants occurring in the area of a proposed development
  • A hiker can print out a plant list before a trip to a state park
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do I get plants that grow outside my selected zip code/watershed/quad?

A: In the Plant Selection section in the lower left, there is a radio button labeled within the selected polygon. Check this radio button to find only those plants that grow within the selected polygon (zip code, watershed, quad, park, etc.).

Q: I looked for what grows in zip code 94306, and the software came up with 0 plants. That sounds fishy to me.

A: Calflora relies on contributed plant observations to determine what grows anywhere, and at the moment there are no contributed observations within the area of zip code 94306. The observation data is sketchy-- some areas are well covered, and others not at all. (One point of the What Grows Here project is to reveal which areas have not been studied enough, so that contributors can fill in the gaps.)

When the software comes up with 0 plants, you can increase the area in some way, and try again. (Increasing the area is a process of abstraction: it is sometimes necessary to extrapolate from areas that have been studied to areas that have not been studied.)

One way to increase the area around a zip code is to zoom in tight around the zip code polygon, and then ask for all plants within the current map area. This query found 51 plants: Zoomed in query

Another way is to switch (top left) to the watershed that encompasses the zip code area, and then ask for all plants within that watershed. This query found 33 plants: Watershed query

Q: Even with a fast connection, it takes many minutes to download, because it's downloading all of those pictures.

A: Uncheck the Photos checkbox (lower left) before pressing the Search for Plants button.

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