News,  Applications,  and Technical Notes  About Calflora
News Updated December 5, 2014    
2014 November   Observer Pro 2.0.7 (the latest Android phone app) released details
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 February  The Plant Characteristics page:
    climate and soil factors; location suitability
2013 December Calflora on social media:   Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn details
2013 November  Groups and Comments:
    email notification of group activity and comments on your records
2013 March  What Grows Here? 2.0 released
release notes


Smart Phone Applications
to make observations of wild plants, including photos.

ANDROID IPHONE and other Apple devices
Get the Observer Pro app from Google Play
(search for "Calflora")
Get the app from iTunes (search for "Calflora")
  • v. 2.0.48 released April, 2014

  • v. 2.0.71 released November, 2014
    • Much better polygon and line drawing
    • Plant detail page
    • See historical records
    • Make new assessments of historical records
  • v. 1.2.1 released August, 2013

    Detailed Instructions


  • About the app

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

    Full Documentation


    What Grows Here?
    The new version of What Grows Here? can display an exhaustive plant list for a chosen area of the state in several formats. There are also some interesting new ways to visualize plant data -- for instance, you can ask to see the locations of several plants on the map at the same time, using a different icon for each plant.

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


  • Once you have search results in What Grows Here?, press Tools / Observation Hotline to run an equivalent search in the Hotline application. Where What Grows Here? can show a summary of plants in an area, Hotline can show all observation records in the same area. This works for a selected background area (eg. a park), or for a user defined search polygon.

  • Open CLIMATE & SOIL PROFILE to see information about the current location.

  • Search polygons can be saved by name, and re-used in another search explicitly. Open AREA, then SAVED SEARCH POLYGONS.

  • Press Tools / Printable version of this page to get a version of your current search results that prints nicely. If you do not want to print the map, turn the map off before pressing this link.

  • See What Grows Here? Help for more details.
  • 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:

    Favorite North Coast plants:

    EXPLORE the locations of these plants relative to one another, starting in Fort Bragg.

    Taxon Report
    2014 April: The Taxon Report page has a new map, which 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.

    Here is the page for Eriophyllum confertiflorum (golden yarrow).

    From the Taxon Report page, there are prominent links to


    Observation Entry Applications:

    Plant Observation Entry   (HELP).
    to enter one plant observed at one location.

    Photos can be uploaded directly from your computer as part of adding an observation record.

    It is also possible to upload a photo to a web photo service (e.g. Flickr or Picasa), or to your own website, and then add the URL of the photo to an observation record.

    See also About Contributing Plant Observations.

    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

    Checklist Entry   (HELP).
    to enter a checklist (many plants observed at one location).

    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 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.)

    Collection: The entry applications offer a Collection field. Use it to organize your records into collections, or to include search terms that will make it possible to categorize records later. For instance, if this record is part of a particular data collection project, put the name of the project here. Or, label all of your records from a particular trip by putting the name of the trip
      Gold country
    into this field. Later you will be able to search for all records that have the same Collection value.

    Elevation Update:
    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, and change the point location, you can see the elevation of the new location immediately by pressing lookup elevation. Otherwise, the observation entry applications will update the elevation value 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.

    Plant Characteristics + Associated Organisms
    From the Taxon Report page for a particular plant, press the Plant Characteristics link on the right.

    This 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.

    See Plant Characteristics Help for details.

    This page also shows the climate and soil tolerances of a plant (the conditions under which the plant will grow, from empirical evidence). Press the Location Suitability link on this page to match plant tolerances with the climate and soil factors of a particular location.



    Eriogonum umbellatum, sulphur buckwheat

    Artemisia californica, coastal sage brush

    Metallic green sweat bee
    © 2007 Gary McDonald

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


    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?

    This application can show a list of plants in a two-photo format (similar to the Illustrated Plant List), or in a simple format, or as plain text.


    Native shrubs near Sacramento associated with bees

    Plants with Taxon Report photos by Lara Hartley

    Castilleja miniata ssp. elata
    Siskiyou indian paintbrush
    © 2009 lara hartley

    Rare plants which grow in Southern California and which need photos

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

    Latest additions include Warm Season, December Low, July High, July Low, Warm Season, and Temperature Range (all derived from data from the Prism Climate Group) and various soil factors (eg. Salinity) from the NRCS SSURGO database. See About Layers for details.

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

    Annual precipitation: 31 inches

    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 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

    Plant Distribution Grid
    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. (See also Plant Distribution Help for details.)

    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.

    Observation Hotline
    to search for observations with the help of a Google Map. This application shows contributed photos when they are available. (Thanks to everyone who has contributed their observations and the amazing photos!)

    New Search Options: (2014 April)  

    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

    Places to View California Native Plants
    to surf through all available checklists on a map.

    Press illustrated version for a printable version of a checklist -- two photos of each plant -- suitable for use as a field guide.


    Here is the application showing checklists for most California State Parks. (Many thanks to Mona Robison and Paul Veisze for making this possible.)


    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

    Calflora Mobile Search for Plants
    a smart phone application for looking up wild plants by name or characteristics. Click on a plant name, and you will see one or two photos of the plant. Works on Android and iPhone.

    Check the
    current location box and (courtesy of HTML5) it will limit the search to plants observed growing near wherever you are.

    Plant List Definition
    to define your own plant lists to be used in the Observer Smart Phone Application, in Observation Download, and in Observation Hotline.
    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.

    My Observations
    to review, edit and publish your observations.

    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.

    Upload a shapefile, let the server take it apart and return the data, and then assign the fields.

    For line and polygon shapefiles, the geometries are stored on the server and associated with your uploaded records.

    Search for Plant Occurrence Records

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

    July, 2014:
    Shapefiles are now available as an Output Format. Choose from Shapefile: point, Shapefile: line, or Shapefile: polygon. More details are available in the HELP document.

    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.


    Calflora on Social Media

    Google Plus: Calflora

    Facebook: Calflora

    LinkedIn: Calflora Users

      Links to both observation detail pages  
      and Taxon Report pages  
      now work well on both Facebook and Google Plus.

      If you post with a link to either of these pages, both Facebook and Google Plus will pick up both the name of the plant and the photo.

    Technical Notes

    2013 April 26:
    Version 1.2.0 of the Calflora iPhone app is available on the iTunes store, thanks to the efforts of developer Rey Felipe and other Calflora team members.

    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

    For instance, how are plants that used to be in the genus Elytrigia treated in the new Jepson Manual?

    Lewisia redidiva var. minor
    Bitter root
    © 2005 lara hartley
    Silene laciniata ssp. laciniata, cardinal catchfly, San Luis Obispo Co. © 2012 Terrence Gosliner

    More News  
    2014 April  The Taxon Report page: a new map details
    2013 November Elevation values updated on all observation records details
    2013 October  Climate and soil background layers in various map applications details
    2013 June  Calflora Data Models: the design of the system details
    2013 August  The Calflora iPhone application version 1.2.1 is available details
    2013 May  Recording the absence of a plant details
    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, Checklist Entry, and Weed Observation 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