News,  Applications,  and Technical Notes
News Updated May 17, 2016    
2016 April May 2016 Photo Contest!
Enter an observation with a photo between May 1 and May 31, 2016
2016 April   The Group Home page shows saved searches and defined plant lists. details
2016 April   Observer Pro 2.0.95 (the latest Android app) released details
2016 January Great Places to view California native plants
now with landscape photos on the search page
2015 December The Taxon Report page is mobile friendly! details
2015 December Introducing details
2015 November Using What Grows Here? to find local milkweed (Asclepias) species details
2015 October Location Suitability: will a native plant do well at your location? details
2015 May Need help with plant identification from a photo?
Join the PLANT ID HELP group.
2014 January Calflora on social media:   Google Plus,    Facebook,    LinkedIn
For more information, please contact Calflora support.

Searching for Plants
What Grows Here?
Here are twelve Asclepias species (milkweeds), displayed in What Grows Here? starting near Redding.

What Grows Here? (WGH) can display a thorough plant list for a chosen area of the state in several formats. Select the area by moving and zooming the map, or draw a polygon, or choose a polygon from a background layer, such as the boundary of a State Park.

The What Grows Here? Wizard is available to help find a location by name in California. Starting from the wizard, you will end up in the map application.

WGH provides some interesting ways to visualize plant data -- for instance, displaying the locations of several plants on the map at the same time, assigning a different icon to each plant. A set of plant - icon assignments is called a palette.

For example, here are fifteen commercially available, low-water native perennial grasses displayed in What Grows Here? starting near Santa Barbara. Move the map to where you live, and discover which of these grasses grow wild near you.

More Examples of Custom Palettes:

Red and white alder locations in Northern California
(Hint: move the map to a new location, and press the button)

Favorite North Coast plants, starting in Fort Bragg

Bay Area Manzanitas, starting in Oakland



Icons and Palettes
To view the locations of a plant on the map, you have a choice of various colored icons. The default icon is a blue point:

A palette is a set of plant - icon assignments. As you choose icons to display various plants in the results, you are implicitly making a custom palette. Custom palettes can be saved and used again.

Here is an example:

Red and white alder locations:

Advanced Search for Plants
This application provides for combinations of search criteria not available from the regular Search for Plants, such as:
  • Does USDA PLANTS recognize the name?
  • Are photos available on CalPhotos, or not?
  • Can it tolerate a soil pH of 4.0?
  • Does it bloom in January?

May, 2015. This application will also search for the plants found in a county, with a selectable level of evidence (the minimum number of observations of the plant in the county). So for instance, you could search for plants for which there are at least five observations in Del Norte County.

This application can show a list of plants in a three-photo format (similar to the Illustrated Plant List), or as plain text (easily imported into a spreadsheet or database).

Calochortus plummerae
Plummer's mariposa lily
© 2015 Kristin Sabo

Search for Plants
August, 2015. The classic Calflora home page search interface, remade:

    • A new search criterion, Duration, now distinguished from Lifeform;
    • Elevation and other seldom used search criteria hidden at the bottom.

Calflora Mobile Search for Plants
a smart phone application for looking up wild plants by name or characteristics.

Searching for Observations

Observation Hotline
to search for observations with the help of a Google Map. This application shows contributed photos when they are available.

It is possible to limit the geographical extent of the search to
  • the visible map area
  • a drawn search polygon (the same as What Grows Here?)
  • the boundary of a background polygon, such as a park
  • a county (check Tools / Advanced Form)


Ceanothus gregii var. perplexans, cupped leaf ceanothus, San Diego Co. © 2011 Sherie Hubble

Other Data Sources: In addition to showing records contributed directly to Calflora, Observation Hotline can also show specimen records from the Consortium of California Herbaria, and observation records with photos from iNaturalist.


Recent native plant observations with photos:
Native Plant Observation Hotline

Erisimum capitatum,
Santa Clara Co.
© 2012 Guy Riddle

Watching weeds:
Bay Area Weeds Observation Hotline
Southern California Weeds Observation Hotline

Map Background Layers
The various mapping applications can show a number of background layers, or polygon sets.

Latest additions include Accumulated Temperature, Growing Season, December Low, July High, and Temperature Range (all derived from data from the Prism Climate Group) and various soil factors (eg. Salinity) from the NRCS SSURGO database.


With the Annual Precipitation layer showing, click on the map to see the annual preciptation at that point.

Annual precipitation: 31 inches

Entering Observations
Smart Phone Applications
for Android and Apple devices.
ANDROID IPHONE and other Apple devices
Get the Observer Pro app from Google Play
(search for "Calflora")
Get the Observer app from iTunes
(search for "Calflora")
  • v. 2.0.95 released April, 2016

    • The map has a scale bar
    • Polygons of historical records are visible

  • v. 2.0.76 released April, 2015

    • Much better polygon and line drawing
    • Plant detail page
    • View historical records
    • Make new assessments of historical records

  • v. 2.0.48 released April, 2014 (first public version)
  • v. 1.3.0 released December, 2015

    Detailed Instructions

    About the app

  • About the app

    Calflora Observer Pro Users Google Community
    (discussion and tips about how to use the app)

    Full Documentation

    Related Topics:

    An external GPS device is highly recommended for increasing accuracy. See this article:
    Using an External Bluetooth GPS Receiver with a Smartphone or Tablet

    Calflora Field Methods

    Define your own plant lists for use in the smart phone applications.

    Plant Observation Entry
    to view, enter or edit a plant observation record.

    Photos can be uploaded directly from your computer to become part of your observation record.

    If your photo is already on the web (e.g. on a web photo service like Flickr or Picasa, or on your own website), you can add the URL of the photo to an observation record.

    Photo-to-observation File Upload
    to transform photos of plants into observation reports. If a photo is geotagged, the software will pick up the location; otherwise, you can set the location on a map when you edit the record in Plant Observation Entry.
    Mentzelia laevicaulis, Giant Blazing Star, near Susanville © 2011 Orrin Winton
    Survey / Checklist Entry
    to enter a survey or a checklist (many plants observed at one location).

    2016 May: This new application is in line to replace the classic Checklist Entry application.

    Adding Lines and Polygons
    The entry applications include the ability to add a line or polygon to a record. Use it to describe the spatial extent of an plant population, or the area covered by a survey or checklist.

    For example, Jerry Baker added this polygon to describe the extent of a patch of Astragalus Brauntonii, Baunton's milk vetch, in Los Angeles Co. (This screen shot is from the Plant Distribution application. Note the blue point showing through, which is a previous record of the same plant.)

    Observation Upload
    to upload an entire dataset directly into the database.

    Copy and paste from a spreadsheet, or upload a shapefile. During the process, you assign fields in the dataset being uploaded to fields in the Calflora database.


    When you upload a shapefile, the server will take it apart and return the data to this application. Then you assign the attributes from the shapefile to database fields.

    Searching for Places
    Great Places to view California native plants
    The Great Places application shows places in California which are particularly good for viewing native plants.

    2016 January: The search page now shows one landscape photo for each place.

    Contributors: If you have already made a bunch of observations with photos in a particular area, then that area would probably make an excellent Great Place.

    The places can include both wild locations and gardens where natives have been planted. There are three component applications: a home/search page, a page about a particular place, and an editor for adding a new place page.

    White's Hill Open Space, Marin County

    © 2015 Marin County Parks

    Chilao Visitor's Center, Los Angeles County

    © 2016 US Forest Service

    Checklist / Survey Search
    to search through all available checklists and surveys, and show the results on a map.

    Example: Checklists in San Diego County

    Click through to see any checklist as an Illustrated Plant List -- it is printable, and suitable for use as a field guide.


    An example checklist:
    Sedgwick Reserve in Santa Barbara County.
    What Grows Here? Wizard
    to find a location in California by name.

    Plant Information
    Taxon Report
    2015 December: The Taxon Report page is now mobile friendly. If you view it on a narrow width device such as a phone or tablet, it will adapt to show the most important information in a single long column.

    2015 May: Watch this YouTube VIDEO describing the Taxon Report page.

    The map on the Taxon Report page indicates plant presence by means of points and quads (instead of by colored counties).

    The map shows elevation in colors inspired by a classic USGS map. Mouse over the map to see county names, and click on the map to see all records from that county in Observation Hotline.

    From the Taxon Report page, there are prominent links to

    Example: the page for Eriophyllum confertiflorum (golden yarrow). is a new website which offers help in identifying wild plants in Calfornia. It has a really good search feature: from the top page, you can enter any of the following:
      plant type (eg. "shrub")
      flower shape
      flower color
      leaf shape
    and the site will find the matching plants. The site has lots of big photos, some of them annotated. This site is the brainchild of Bruce Homer-Smith, and more useful features are coming. For instance, here is an article on Marin Manzanitas.

    The Calflora Taxon Report page also has a link to the page for the same plant, for those plants now covered by The link is in the More Information section; for instance Arctostaphylos canescens.

    Plant Characteristics and Associations
    This page shows the climate and soil tolerances of a plant (the conditions under which the plant will grow). Press the Location Suitability link on this page to match plant tolerances with the climate and soil factors of a particular location.

    From the Taxon Report page for a particular plant, press the Plant Characteristics link in the center.

    2015 November: There is a new climate factor, Accumulated Temperature, which helps to distinguish very hot places from moderately hot places.
    Also, the factor fomerly known as Warm Months has been recalculated and re-named Growing Season.

    Climate factors are mostly based on data from the Prism Climate Group at Oregon State University. Taken together, they describe the local climate of various locations in California. By extension, the climate tolerances of a particular plant can be inferred from values of the factors at locations where the plant is known to grow.

    Metallic green sweat bee
    © 2007 Gary McDonald


    Visualization (shading) of a dramatic change in accumulated temperature: from Mt. San Jacinto to Palm Springs

    This also page shows what other organisms are associated with a plant, both beneficial and pest. Data about native bees and other beneficial insects (which plants they favor) are from the XERCES SOCIETY.

    You can also use What Grows Here? or Advanced Search to look for plants associated with, for instance,bees.


    Eriogonum umbellatum, sulphur buckwheat

    Artemisia californica, coastal sage brush

    Plant Distribution
    shows the statewide distribution of a plant as a variable cell size grid, or as points.

    From the Taxon Report page for a particular plant, press the Distribution Grid link.

    The cells are colored to make a heat map, indicating where a particular plant has been observed the most. For instance, this page for Rhamnus ilicifolia, hollyleaf redberry.


    This application can show shape data (lines and polygons) when available. The grid is an interesting way to bring point data and shape data together on the same map, at whatever scale.

    Here is an example polygon for a weed in Marin Co.:

    Cytisus scoparius (scotch broom)
    in Corte Madera
    (Marin County Open Space District)

    From the Tools menu, click to see plant distribution in Google Earth.

    Bloom Period
    is shown on over 9,000+ Taxon Report pages. (See this note for more about bloom period and the sources of the data.) For example, see this page for Madia elegans.

    An illustrated plant list can also show bloom period, and sort by the bloom start month.

    The Advanced Search for Plants application supports searching by a bloom month; for instance, plants that bloom during June.

    Madia elegans, common Madia
    2011-8-31 Lassen Co.
    © 2011 Orrin Winton
    November, 2013: The elevation values of all observation records were updated, in meters, by referencing the point location against a digital elevation model.

    Also, whenever you edit an observation record in Plant Observation Entry, and change the point location, you can see the elevation of the new location immediately by pressing lookup elevation. The application will also update the elevation value automatically when you save the record. The elevation value comes from the Google Maps Elevation API.

    Accurate elevation values can be important in predicting where a plant will grow.

    The elevation range of each plant was recently derived by analyzing the elevation values of observations of that plant. The elevation range in meters is reported on the Plant Characteristics page.

    Contributor Services
    Comment on Observations
    There is a comment system for observations. If you are registered as a contributor, you can add a comment on any observation record.

    From My Calflora / Comments, you can look up all the comments you have made, or all the comments others have made about your observations.

    Informed comments can be a helpful source of feedback to the person responsible for an observation. For legacy observation data (where the observer is no longer accessible), comments can also help Calflora volunteers and staff to get erroneous records out of the way.
    Customize your Calflora Experience
    From My Calflora / Preferences, you can specify your own center point for observations. This becomes the starting point for various applications, including Plant Observation Entry, My Observations, and Observation Hotline. (If you haven't specified a center point, these applications start near Fresno.)

    If you belong to groups, you can specify a default group for all of your new observations.

    It is also an option to ask for email notifications when there is new activity in one of your groups, or when there are new comments about your records.

    Jepsonia paryi, Parry's jepsonia, near Flores Peak, Orange Co. © 2011 Ron Vanderhoff
    My Observations
    to review, edit and publish your observations.

    Plant List Definition
    to define your own plant lists to be used in the Observer and Observer Pro smart phone applications, and in search applications.

    Certain special purpose plant lists (BAEDN Priority Weeds, Cal-IPC Priority Weeds) are available for all users.

    Cut and paste a list of plant names from anywhere. Accepts older scientific names, and resolves them to current Calflora names.

    Press illustrated version for a printable version of a list -- two photos for each plant.

    Observation Download
    to search for and download observations in a variety of formats.

    Shapefiles are available as an Output Format. Choose from Shapefile: point, Shapefile: line, or Shapefile: polygon.


    Search for records of a particular plant, set Output Format = KML and press Download File to view the results in Google Earth. If there are any lines or polygons in the results, you will be able to see them in Google Earth.

    Example: Saccharum ravennae (ravennagrass) including lines and polygons from UC Davis McLaughlin Reserve.


    Technical Notes
    2015 July:
    Calflora has incorporated new plant names from several sources.
    There are 118 from the Jepson eFlora (revisions from 2013 and 2014), including 25 from USDA PLANTS, including and 64 from the CNPS Inventory, including

    © 2014 Chris Jaster

    2012 January:
    Most Taxon Report pages have a link in the bottom right called Jepson eFlora which goes directly to the Jepson eFlora page for that plant. For example, Linanthus pungens.

    2011 October:
    Calflora has incorporated the Jepson Manual 2 scientific names into the Plant Name Library. Search for what has become of particular plant names with the Name Status application.

    See also Web Applications for Invasives

    Lewisia redidiva
    Bitter root
    © 2014 Vertin Alvarez
    Silene laciniata ssp. laciniata, cardinal catchfly, San Luis Obispo Co. © 2012 Terrence Gosliner

    Other News  
    2015 November  Plant Characteristics: new climate factors details
    2015 November The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) will not be acquiring Calflora
    2015 October Applications for Invasive Plants:
    all about early detection targets, weed groups, etc.
    2015 August Search for Plants (the Calflora home page) details
    2015 July 207 new plant names details
    2015 May  A video describing the Taxon Report page video
    2015 May Advanced Search for Plants: search by county,
    specifying the minimum number of observations of the plant in the county.
    2015 April Group Observations: show only the most recent record
    when there are several records describing a population
    2015 February Each Calflora contributor should use their own account. details
    2015 January   In the news:
    Management of Biological Invasions (2015) Volume 6, Issue 3: 231-241

    The San Francisco Bay Area Early Detection Network
    Mark Frey, Mike Perlmutter, Andrea Williams, Dan Gluesenkamp
    2015 January Botanizing with Calflora
    a workshop at the CNPS Conservation Conference
    2014 October   Weed Manager: Resources, Applications, and Techniques
    a description of each Weed Manager application now available
    2014 October   Plant Observation Entry v. 3.27 released details
    2014 April  The Taxon Report page: a new map details

    2013 November  Groups and Comments:
    email notification of group activity and comments on your records
    2013 October  Climate and soil background layers in various map applications details
    2013 June  Calflora Data Models: the design of the system details
    2013 May  Recording the absence of a plant details
    2013 March  What Grows Here? 2.0 released
    2013 January  Training: Field Methods using Calflora Tools
    Northern CA Botanists 2013 Symposium, Chico
    2012 December A crosswalk from TJM2 names to USDA PLANTS names, and vice-versa details
    2012 November Lines and polygons can be added and edited
    from Plant Observation Entry and Checklist Entry.
    2012 October   Cynthia Powell, new GIS Project Manager at Calflora
    2012 August   Best Plants, Best Practices 1.0 released details
    2012 August   Dan Gluesenkamp, new Executive Director of CNPS details
    2012 June   Bloom period available on 9,000+ Taxon Report pages details
    2012 May   Training: Methods of Collecting and Assimilating Invasive Species Data
    Central Coast Invasive Species Action Network, San Luis Obispo
    2012 March  Training: Emerging Botanical Field Methods
    Chico State Herbarium
    2012 January  Calflora at the CNPS Conservation Conference, San Diego
    2011 November   150 new State Park checklists details
    2011 October   Cynthia Powell, Cal-IPC: 137,000 records! details
    2011 October   Cal-IPC releases CalWeedMapper details
    2011 September   NRCS eVegGuide 2.0 released details
    2011 July   Dan Gluesenkamp, new Executive Director of Calflora
    2010 December CNPS releases Online Inventory 8th Edition,
    developed by Calflora with the CNPS Inventory team