logo Calflora Observation Search   HELP
Updated April 28, 2023
  VIDEO Observation Search Demonstration

  VIDEO Drawing a Polygon

The Observation Search application lets you search for georeferenced observations of wild plants and see them on a map. It also show photos associated with observations.
For any questions about using this application, please contact Calflora support.
There is also a Place Name Search application to help find a particular location.

To use the application, click on the map in an area of interest , zoom in, and press . If you want to qualify what observations are returned, enter some criteria, such as Native Status = native.

Geographical Extent:
Check   in map area   to limit the search to the current map area.

Or, open POLYGON to specify an exact geographical search space.
To find all records in a particular park, press LAYERS at the top of the page, choose Region / Protected Area (CPAD), and then click inside one of the parks or forests that appear on the map. The name of the selected area will appear on the left at the top of the map:
    36.2709, -121.8315         Andrew Molera State Park (CDPR)
Then check
    in selected area

See also this introduction to Calflora Map Applications. For more information about background layers, see Map Layer Help.
The results appear simultaneously in a table and as icons on the map. On the map, the default legend theme is Record Type. The following icons are used to indicate what kind of record it is.
    These icons apply when the value of Documentation is reported:
      Indicates a simple point.
      Indicates an obscured point.
      Indicates a record with a line or polygon.
      Indicates a survey or checklist.
      Indicates a quad (for certain plants in certain areas, only quad-level data is available).

    This icon applies when the value of Documentation is specimen:
      Indicates a specimen record.

    This icon applies when the value of Documentation is potential habitat:
      Indicates a record of potential habitat.

    These icons apply if you have asked for zero count records or questionable records to be included in the results:
      Indicates a record with Number of Plants equal to zero.
      Indicates a questionable record.
If you click on a point on the map, an InfoWindow opens at the point, the table scrolls down to the corresponding record, and the record is highlighted. If you click on the purple crayon for a record in the table, an InfoWindow opens at the corresponding map point, and a short menu opens up under the record.
    detail: Open the detail page for this record, including all photos and any comments that may have been made on this record.

    editor: Open Plant Observation Entry on this record.

    location-closeup: Open the Plant Distribution application showing a close up view of the record location. It will show the polygon associated with this record, if there is one, and any nearby observations of the same plant.

    comment (Calflora): Open the detail page for this record showing comments if any. If you are signed into Calflora you can add a new comment. This also works on CCH2 records.

This application can show at most 2500 observation simultaneously. If a particular search produces more, the application will only show the first 2500.

Choosing Which Columns to Display
To show results in a table, the application comes with several predefined column sets. The default column set is called Basic, and includes a small photo, if one is available.

The column set called Photo View includes a larger version of the photo. The column set called Basic + Accuracy has no photo but includes two fields that indicate the spatial accuracy of the record: Location Quality (low, medium or high) and Error Radius (meters).

You can also make up a custom column set: open customize, and choose the columns you want. See this Data Dictionary for an explanation of all available columns.

If an observation has more than one photo, then a white number appears in the upper left of the photo indicating how many additional photos are part of this observation:

Click on a column title to sort the results by that column. The first time you click, the results are sorted in ascending order, and the column head turns green. The second time you click, the results are sorted in descending order, and the column head turns orange.


Which Records are Excluded?
These types of records are excluded by default:

  • records with zero plants
  • questionable records
  • records where the value of Documentation is potential habitat
  • records where the value of Natural Status is not wild.
You can choose to include these types of records by setting the appropriate criteria.

Scientific Name: Typeahead enabled. Type the first few letters of the plant you are looking for, and then choose it from the list. Typeahead also works with Common Name.

When are alternate scientific names included in a search? When you specify a complete scientific name, such as Frangula californica ssp. tomentella, the search results will also include alternate names of that plant, if they are equivalent. So for instance, a search for this plant will include records of Rhamnus tomentella.

(To see exactly which plant names are included for any particular plant, go to the Taxon Report for the plant, and look at the list of Alternate Names in the Name Status section. See Name Status Help for an explanation of how Calflora tracks accepted and alternate names.)

A plant name is referred to as a parent when there are recognized subspecies or varieties. So for instance, Frangula californica is a parent, because it has several subspecies (Frangula californica ssp. crassifolia etc.). When you search for a parent name, all subspecies and varieties are included in the search results. Any alternate names of the parent are also included in the search results, as well as any alternate names of its subspecies and varieties.

Other Data Sources: By default, a search from this application will only consider records contributed directly to Calflora. Open OTHER SOURCES to include data from other sources including the Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH2), the Consortium of North American Bryophyte Herbaria, and/or iNaturalist.

Photos: Choose records with photos if you only want to see records that have photos. Some records have more than one photo, and only the first one is shown in the results -- press detail to see all of the photos for an observation.

Start Date, End Date: Use one, or the other, or both of these criteria to bracket the Observation Date of records you are interested in. Dates are entered in the format YYYY-MM-DD so that April 15, 2019 is written as 2019-04-15. If you enter 2019-05-20 as the end date, the result will include records that were entered on or before 2019-05-20. If you put the same date in both Start Date and End Date, the results will only include records entered on that date.


include surveys/checklists: By default, survey and checklist records are not included in the results. Check this box if you want them to be included.

Location Description Some observation records have useful information in the Location Description field. Enter a short phrase to find any records that contain that phrase in the Location Description field.

For additional search criteria, open MORE CRITERIA.

Phenology: Some contributors specify the phenology (for instance, Flowering) of the plant when they enter a record. Use this criterion to find records with a particular phenology.

Location Quality: HIGH - MEDIUM - LOW.
See also About Observation Datasets: Location Quality.

Plant List: To limit your search to certain specific plants, choose a plant list. Look for already defined plant lists with the Plant List Definition application, or define your own. Click on the view link to see an illustrated version of the plant list.

Natural Status:
WILD (the default value)
PLANTED - restoration site

Indexed After, Before: Use one, or the other, or both of these criteria to bracket the Index Date (date added to Calflora) of records you are interested in. Dates are entered in the format YYYY-MM-DD so that April 15, 2023 is written as 2023-04-15.

Source: The source organization responsible for collecting the record.

Category: The category of plants you are looking for. One of

Choose only vascular plants to eliminate algae, bryophytes and lichens.
See also About Calflora Categories.

Photo Contest Category: One of
Grasses + grasslike plants
Any other flowering plant
Ferns + Bryophytes

To make judging easier, observations entered into the May photo contest are divided into these five categories. There is a winner in each category. In past years there have been many entries of the various Calochortus species; this year they have their own category.

History Filter: A history stack is a way of organizing multiple records concerning the condition of a single patch over time. In a history stack, all of the records concerning the patch are linked back to the earliest, or root, record. When a history filter option has been chosen, a single record will be returned for each stack.

This criterion has three options:

    all records   -   only the most recent   -   only reference records
only the most recent:
A single record (the most recent) will be returned for each history stack. Two columns appear at the beginning of the result set: Root and Most Recent. When historical information is available about a population, the Root record will be the oldest, and the Most Recent record will be the newest. When a history stack is not available, the record ID appears in the Most Recent column. (When there is only one record of a population, that record is both the earliest and the most recent.)

only reference records:
The search is limited to those records which have a population record with a reference polygon, chosen from one of the polygons in the associated history stack. The record associated with the reference polygon will be returned.

Number of Plants:

at least one: (the default value) 1 or more plants were reported.
zero: 0 plants were reported within a certain area.
any: Any value.

include questionable records: Some observation records have been identified as questionable by Calflora users. By default, these are not included in the results. Check this box if you want them to be included.


How this record is documented.
reported An observation of this plant at this location was submitted to Calflora directly or indirectly.
specimen A specimen of this plant from this location is in an herbarium's collection, or has been submitted to an herbarium.
potential habitat This plant is suspected to be at this location.
The default value is reported or specimen. Choose any if you want to include records of potential habitat as well.

The Ageratina record is part of a history stack, and the Ehrharta record is not.
LEGEND (AKA Symbology)
Open LEGEND to control which colored icons are used to represent records on the map.

In addtion to the default Record Type theme, there are three other themes available: Plant Name, Management Status, and Plant Count. For these three, if a polygon is available for a particular observation, it can be displayed in a color that matches the icon.

The Plant Name Theme

Once this theme is selected, open Plants with Icons and press . Enter the name of a plant, choose an icon, and press accept. For instance, you might pick the red square icon to represent Rubus armeniacus.

Here is an example showing eight weeds recently mapped by Marin County Parks in the Roy's Redwoods Open Space Preserve:

If you choose the large white square as an icon for a plant, then no icon will be displayed on the map.

Once you have assigned colored icons to particular plants, you can save your choices as color scheme, and use it again later.

The Management Status Theme
You can view observations acording to their management status using the following icons:

The Plant Count Theme
You can view observations acording to the value of Number of Plants using the following icons:


Drawing a Polygon
You can draw a polygon on the map to limit the search area. Open POLYGON and click . Then click on the map to lay down the vertices. Click when your polygon is complete.

For a step-by-step explanation of the process of drawing your own search polygon, see Drawing a Polygon.

If the polygon you drew might be useful later, you can save it by name. Open SAVED SEARCH POLYGONS, enter an name, and press .

You can see all of your saved polygons in the Shape Editor application.

Using a Saved Polygon
Open POLYGON. If you know the ID of the polygon you want to use, enter it in the Shape ID box and press .

Otherwise, open SAVED SEARCH POLYGONS. Your named search polygons will appear in the drop down so that you can choose one by name.

in polygon

There are many background map layers available. If you select one of the following layers, you can search within the selected background polygon:
    Protected Area (CPAD)
    Jepson Bioregion
    CNPS Chapter
    Zip Code
    USGS Quadrangle

in selected area
    Choose a format, and press . The current results will be downloaded with all columns that are currently showing.

    Note that the Location Quality field is included in all downloads. If the value of Location Quality is high, the plant really was seen at the specified coordinates. If the value is medium or low, however, the coordinates indicate the general area in which the plant was found, and not a specific location. These records are useful for landscape level analysis of plant distribution.

Downloading CCH Records
    If your search includes records from the Consortium of California Herberia (CCH) special conditions apply. These conditions are part of the Memorandum of Understanding between Calflora and the CCH which allows Calflora users to download CCH data. First, all of the records from the CCH will be grouped together in the downloaded file. Second, two other fields will be included in the results, Source and Citation.

    Source and Citation should be included in any subsequent use of any downloaded record.

    For CCH records, the value of Citation is, for example:

    Consortium of California Herbaria [CCH]. 2023. Specimen data from CCH contributing herbaria. Retrieved from Calflora https://www.calflora.org/ Oct 01, 2023.

    The value of Source is the abbreviated name of the herbarium.
    Abbreviated NameHerbarium
    BLM Arcata Field Office BLMAR - BLM Arcata Field Office Herbarium
    BLM Eagle Lake ELH - BLM, Eagle Lake Field Office Herbarium
    BLM Redding BLMRD - BLM Herbarium - Redding FO
    Blodgett Forest BFRS - Blodgett Forest Research Station
    CA Dept. Food & Agriculture CDA - California Department of Food and Agriculture
    CAPR Colorado Desert District BSCA - Colorado Desert District, California Department of Parks and Recreation
    CSU Chico CHSC - CSU Chico, Chico State Herbarium - Vascular Plants
    CSU Chico CHSC - CSU Chico, Chico State Herbarium - Lichens
    CSU Chico CHSC - CSU Chico, Chico State Herbarium - Bryophytes
    CSU Fresno FSC - Fresno State Herbarium
    CSU Fullerton MACF - MacFadden Herbarium, California State University Fullerton
    CSU Humboldt HSC - Humboldt State University Vascular Plant Herbarium
    CSU LA CSLA - Cal State LA Herbarium
    CSU Long Beach LOB - California State University, Long Beach Herbarium
    CSU Northridge SFV - California State University, Northridge
    CSU Sacramento SACT - California State University, Sacramento
    CSU San Bernardino CSUSB - California State University San Bernardino
    CSU Stanlislaus SHTC - CSU Stanislaus Herbarium
    Cal Academy CAS - California Academy of Sciences Vascular Plants
    Cal Academy CAS - California Academy of Sciences Bryophytes
    Cal BG RSA - California Botanic Garden Herbarium
    Cal BG RSA - California Botanic Garden - Bryophytes
    Cal Poly OBI - Robert F. Hoover Herbarium, Cal Poly State University
    Catalina Island Conservatory CATA - Catalina Island Conservancy Herbarium Vascular Plants
    Catalina Island Conservatory CATA - Catalina Island Conservancy Herbarium Algae
    Granite Mountains GMDRC - Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center
    Green Diamond Resource Co. GDRC - Green Diamond Resource Co.
    Harvard University Herbaria Harvard University Herbaria: Vascular Plants (California, Oregon, Mexico)
    Hopland Research Center HREC - Hopland Research and Extension Center
    Huntington BG HNT - Huntington Botanical Gardens Herbarium
    Inyo NF INF - Inyo National Forest Herbarium, Bishop
    Jasper Ridge JROH - Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford University
    Joshua Tree NP JOTR - Joshua Tree National Park
    Klamath NF KNFY - Klamath National Forest Herbarium
    Lassen Volcanic NP LVNP - Lassen Volcanic National Park, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
    Mendocino College Coast Center MCCC - Mendocino College Coast Center Herbarium
    Oregon State University OSC - Oregon State University Vascular Plant Collection
    Pacific Grove Museum PGM - Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
    Pacific Union PUA - Pacific Union College Hebarium
    Pasadena City College PASA - Pasadena City College Herbarium
    Pepperwood Preserve PPWD - Stephen J. Barnhart Herbarium at Pepperwood Preserve
    Riverside Metro Museum CLARK - Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Clark Herbarium
    SDNHM SD - SD Herbarium, San Diego Natural History Museum
    SDSU Herbarium SDSU - San Diego State University Herbarium
    SFSU SFSU - Vascular Plants of the Harry D. Thiers Herbarium at San Francisco State University
    SJSU SJSU - Carl W. Sharsmith Herbarium, San Jose State University
    Sagehen SCFS - Sagehen Herbarium
    Salmon/Scott District, USFS SSRD - Salmon/Scott Ranger District, USFS, Fort Jones, CA
    Santa Barbara BG SBBG - Clifton Smith Herbarium, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
    Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP THRI - Herbarium of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
    Shata-Trinity NF STNF - Shasta-Trinity National Forest Herbarium
    Sierra Pacific SPIF - Sierra Pacific Industries-Forestry
    Sonoma State University NCC - Sonoma State University Herbarium
    Southern Oregon University SOC - Southern Oregon University Herbarium
    U Nevada, Las Vegas UNLV - University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Wesley E. Niles Herbarium
    U Nevada, Reno RENO - University of Nevada, Reno Herbarium
    UC Davis DAV - UC Davis Herbarium
    UC Riverside UCR - University of California, Riverside Herbarium - Vascular Plants
    UC Riverside UCR - University of California, Riverside Herbarium - Lichens
    UC, Epling Collection UCJEPS, LA in UC - University Herbarium, Epling Collection, University of California, Berkeley
    UC/JEPS UCJEPS - University and Jepson Herbaria, University of California, Berkeley
    UCI IRVC - University of California, Irvine Herbarium
    UCLA LA - University of California, Los Angeles Herbarium
    UCSB UCSB - University of California Santa Barbara Herbarium
    UCSC UCSC Herbarium - Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History, University of California Santa Cruz
    US Smithsonian US - Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History
    Victor Valley College VVC - Victor Valley College
    Yosemite NP YM - Yosemite National Park

Here are some examples illustrating the various features of this application.
2022 April v 4.46   Natural Status is a new search criterion.

2022 March v 4.44   This application shows bryphyte data from the Consortium of North American Bryphyte Herbaria.

2021 October v 4.41   CCH2 data is downloadable.

2021 May v 4.36   This application shows data from CCH2 instead of from CCH1.

2021 May v 4.34   There is a PHOTO ESSAY function in the Tools menu.

2021 February v 4.30   There is a DOWNLOAD RESULTS function in the Tools menu.

2020 December v 4.21   SYMBOLOGY has been renamed LEGEND. To see the current legend, or to change legend themes, open LEGEND in the top left corner of the map.

2020 November v 4.19 Two new advanced search criteria: include questionable records and Documentation.

2020 October v 4.17 A new advanced search criterion: Number of Plants.
A new symbology theme: Plant Count.

2020 April v 4.04 The resize thumb -- a control to change the height of the map-- is back! Find it in the lower left corner of the map.

2019 July v 3.83. There is a new predefined column set called Basic + Accuracy which includes two fields that indicate the spatial accuracy of the record: Location Quality (low, medium or high) and Error Radius (meters).

2018 November v 3.49 In the table of results, all columns are sortable. Click once to sort in ascending order (green); click again to sort in descending order (orange).

The column headers are pinned to the top of the page when you scroll down.

2018 September v 3.40 The Symbology control is available under TOOLS.

2016 August This application will only work with search polygons that have fewer than 3,000 vertices.

    If you have a search polygon with more than 3,000 vertices, consider trying to simplify it, or use another approach such as searching in more than one county.

2016 July When you define a custom column set, it is stored in browser memory, and will be used the next time you use this application from the same browser,

    You can now specify more than one county as search criteria.

2015 October When you select a plant list, a view link appears. Click on this link to see an illustrated version of the plant list.

2015 June History Filter included as a selection criterion.

2014 June Map Layers has a new look: open Climate to find a particular climate layer, such as Warm Months. Open Region to find a region layer, such as Watershed.