Wednesday, September 14, 2016

All questions are good questions, but can you trust the answer you find on line?

 by Amanda Martin, Tarflower Chapter

Where do I find reliable plant information online?

What a great question. When I start thinking about planting in my landscape, I think about foliage color, density, and overall growth shape of the plant. I think a lot about flowers; flower color, flower size, flower abundance, and what time of year can I expect these flowers to emerge? Is there anything attracted to the flower color, pollen or nectar? Is there a berry or larger fruit that will come after the flower is exhausted? Can I eat these berries or larger fruit? I always have many questions, so I try to read a lot.

FNPS "Native Plants for Your Area" is a great resource
when looking for plants that will grow in your region. 
Books, magazines, blogs, and databases are filled with so much useful information, and there are so many reliable sources for Florida gardeners and plant enthusiasts:

Of course,  our own FNPS website section on Native Plants for Your Area has an excellent search engine that will easily find plants by common and scientific names. What I like about the search engine is the ease of finding what you are looking for, even if use just part of the name.  

The Real Florida
 The Real Florida Magazine
Gardener
is an excellent, free publication that  provides information on FNPS Chapters, professional ecologists, and native nurseries. The native nurseries can help with design, installation and maintenance of your landscape, or recommend a company in the area that can. This FNPS Blog is also a source I like to browse: They will often highlight a genus and offer comparative write-ups that let me know a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) difference between species.

FWF Flower Friday
The Florida Wildflower Foundation has an educational Flower Friday blog and a 'What's in Bloom' map. Keeping me fed with new information or taking a second look at a plant I thought I knew. Why these plants have evolved to exist in a specific area, with a specific growth habit, makes a big difference as to whether it will live where you are attempting to plant it.

One of the largest databases I reference is the USDA Plants.gov site. This site will show a plant's natural distribution range in North America, invasive or noxious potential, provides pictures and informational links when available. I believe the site has become more user-friendly over time, but it is still important to be accurate when spelling a scientific name into their search engine. It is always best if you use the botanical name, since many plants may share one common name.
USDA Database  Home Page

I use scientific/botanical names when looking up information on the USDA website. If I don't know the scientific name, I'll google search the common name, make sure I put "Florida" somewhere in the search bar, then I'll locate the botanical name in an article below. I copy/paste the botanical name back into the search bar and voila, more accurate articles, write-ups and most importantly…accurate pictorial representations of the plant I'm wanting to learn about. 

The USF Florida Plant Atlas provides the same type of information and can be used similarly. 


Practicality in the native plant world suggests these plants are more specifically adapted to certain conditions. Understanding these conditions by seeing them thrive in their preferred environment teaches us the most. So learn all you can, and then give it a shot in your landscape.

Below I've listed helpful websites (some mentioned above) and below that are direct links that provide a comparative look at one of my favorite plants, Berlandiera subacaulis, Greeneyes. You can use these links to find information on a plant you want to learn more about, maybe a plant you won at one of the plant raffles.


Explore how each site presents information about the same plant:  


The USF Florida Plant Atlas allows you to search
using many criteria,  including common or scientific name,
county, nantve or non-native and more

Specific Links for Greeneyes, Berlandiera subacaulis






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