Did you know the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains the world’s most widely used online plant educational system in the world? The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) hosts a massive online plant database, called “PLANTS” that provides anything you would ever want to know about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts and lichens of the U.S. and its territories. According to the website, the database includes names, plant symbols, checklists, distributional data, species abstracts, characteristics, images, crop information, automated tools, onward Web links, and references. Plus, there are 40,000+ gorgeous high resolution plant images available for personal or educational use.
PLANTS is a collaborative effort of the USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center (NPDC), the USDA NRCS Information Technology Center (ITC), the USDA National Information Technology Center (NITC) and many other partners. The information exists primarily to promote land conservation in the United States, but academics and the public are welcome.
Just how popular is the USDA-NRCS PLANTS database? Try 70,000,000 hits and 1.8 million users per month! Are you a gardener? Did you see a weird plant you want to identify? Want to check out the plant of the week? Here are some things you can do at PLANTS:
- See a list of plants in your state
- Learn about the wetland plants in your region
- Learn about all the endangered plants of the US
- Learn about noxious and invasive plants
- Search for and view images of plants
- Upload your own images to the plant database
- Read and print abstracts about important conservation plants
- Download posters
- Get ecological descriptions of sites from around the country
- Choose plants for particular land conservation purposes
There are a lot of fantastic online government resources available to the public free of charge. I’m hoping to dig up more in the coming months.