Visual Guide to Louisiana Plants: A Web Based Searchable Plant Database and Photo Gallery of the Plants of Louisiana

Science Center Objects

Quality photographs of plant species are rare on the internet, often difficult to find, and are generally copyrighted, preventing them from being used by government agencies and non-government organizations, academics and the general public.

Plant species from the Visual Guide to Louisiana Plants
Plant species from the Visual Guide to Louisiana Plants

The Science Issue and Relevance: Quality photographs of plant species are rare on the internet, often difficult to find, and are generally copyrighted, preventing them from being used by government agencies and nongovernment organizations, academics and the general public. This also proves problematic when attempting to identify a particular plant species. Most plant-related web sites either do not provide quality photographs or do not offer any other means of identification. The internet is prone to nonexpert sites containing poor or wrong information and misidentified species. Furthermore, field guides, dichotomous keys, and manuals of flora can be expensive for the general public, students, and professionals on a budget. For individuals not educated in the field of botany, these technical taxonomic manuals can be tedious, time-consuming, and often impossible to navigate. As more scientists and members of the general public increasingly turn to electronic devices for information there is a growing need for extensive, complete, web-based sources of species identification and natural history information accompanied with high-quality photographs and illustrations.

Blue mistflower, native to Louisiana
Blue mistflower, a native vascular plant of Louisiana

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: This project involves the development of an online guide to the 3,200 vascular plants of Louisiana. A relational database of 12 basic plant characters and 5 text fields has been constructed to aid users toward proper plant species selection and identification. The search engine uses a matrix of plant, leaf, and flower characters for intuitive plant identification. An extensive collection of over 40,000 plant images has been sorted, selected, cropped and processed for high-resolution viewing. The database links user choices and images by web page access, served on the Wetland and Aquatic Research Center website. This website will allow users to identify plants in a user-friendly and intuitive way, provide a source of accurately identified plant photographs for general use, and educate the public on the plant and habitat diversity of Louisiana. 

Future Steps: Images and data missing in this first version will be added as they become available. Additional fields that would contribute to this product include 1) unique field identification characters, 2) range maps reflecting each species’ collection records in the state, 3) drawings to illustrate botanical search terms, 4) ethnobotanical value, 5) forage value and palatability, 6) wildlife value, 7) report printing function, and 8) a smart phone application. Field trips to collect images to supplement the current collection will be coordinated with the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program and other partners.

The online guide will help with plant identification
The online guide will help with plant identification

Link to Guide to the Plants of Louisiana