PLANTS Database Provides Answers

Talia GoesAgribusiness, USDA

plants_photo_bannerRecently the PLANTS website crossed a milestone with the uploading of its 50,000th image. The database, managed by the National Plant Data Team at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s East National Technology Support Center, hosts images of plants that grow in the U.S. and its territories.

The PLANTS site is one of USDA’s most frequently visited websites.

Besides images, PLANTS provides basic information on plants, including scientific names and distribution. It is used worldwide by scientists, educators, conservationists, students, farmers, horticulturists and others. All of this information assists people in identifying plants with the correct scientific names.

The correct identification of plants can be a serious business. For example, farmers and gardeners need to be able to properly identify weeds so they can take the appropriate steps to control them. Plant identification could even mean the difference between life and death. For example, edible parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and carrot (Daucus carota) are closely related and are similar in appearance to water hemlock (Cicuta maculata) and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), two species that can be fatal if eaten.