Go Botany — Plant identification on a computer or tablet near you

Go Botany: the new site for New England Plant identification

Go Botany: the new site for New England Plant identification

First came Flora Novae Angliae, the defin­it­ive manual for the iden­ti­fic­a­tion of nat­ive and nat­ur­al­ized vas­cu­lar plants of New England. Now comes the web­site with thou­sands of full-color images and illus­tra­tions for teach­ing and learn­ing botany.

Dr Elizabeth Farnsworth has told us about the New England Wild Flower Society’s announce­ment of the first stage of Go Botany, the Society’s excit­ing, new open source web­site that teaches bot­any and plant iden­ti­fic­a­tion, is now online.

She writes “Imagine a field guide at your fin­ger­tips that can help you learn about the nat­ive and nat­ur­al­ized plants of New England! Maybe you’re a teacher look­ing for new ways to interest your ninth-graders in learn­ing about the nat­ural world or a plant enthu­si­ast look­ing to meet and share new finds with a com­munity of neigh­bors with sim­ilar interests. Whether you’re a botan­ical begin­ner or an expert with this free Go Botany web tool, you can now identify 1,200 of the most com­mon nat­ive and nat­ur­al­ized plants of New England. But there is much more to come.

Go Botany Homepage

Go Botany Homepage

With a $2.5 mil­lion grant from the National Science Foundation and other gen­er­ous dona­tions, we are build­ing a suite of many learn­ing tools. Our flex­ible, user-friendly inter­act­ive key will enable you to identify spe­cies based on whichever por­tions of the plant – leaves, flowers, winter buds, bark, etc. – you are able to observe at any given time of the year. Using truly innov­at­ive tech­no­logy, this dynamic key asks you the ques­tions about your plant that most effi­ciently help you hone in on your spe­cies, based on the ques­tions you have already answered. Our Simple Key will help you identify 1,200 of the more com­mon New England plants. If you prefer to use a more tra­di­tional dicho­tom­ous key, later in 2012 Go Botany will fea­ture an innov­at­ive, click­able key that is easier to nav­ig­ate than a con­ven­tional field guide – no more flip­ping pages! Also com­ing in 2012, is the Full Key, which cov­ers more than 3,500 plant spe­cies, includ­ing sub­spe­cies and vari­et­ies. We are also devel­op­ing an online, col­lab­or­at­ive portal called PlantShare, where you can join a com­munity of plant enthu­si­asts and cre­ate and share check­lists and pho­to­graphs of spe­cies you have seen. Have a ques­tion? Here’s your chance to ask a bot­an­ist. Our research bot­an­ist and assist­ants will be avail­able to answer all your questions.

Go Botany is fun and friendly. Jargon is kept to a min­imum, but all botan­ical terms are linked to a pop-up gloss­ary. Drawings illus­trate all the char­ac­ter­ist­ics in the key. Once you identify your plant, you can see a wealth of inform­a­tion about it, includ­ing gor­geous color pho­to­graphs, maps of its geo­graphic range, dia­gnostic char­ac­ter­ist­ics, and mem­or­able facts. The Go Botany design is optim­ized for both desktop and tab­let com­puters, so you can use it any­where you have a web connection.

Why the web? New England Wild Flower Society recog­nizes that the future of sci­ence edu­ca­tion relies, in part, on using new tech­no­lo­gies effect­ively to con­vey inform­a­tion, excite curi­os­ity, point learners to related resources, and enable them to use port­able devices to identify spe­cies in the field. At the same time, we know tech­no­logy must go hand-in-hand with ment­or­ing and human inter­ac­tions that intro­duce new con­cepts and rein­force learn­ing in a mem­or­able and mean­ing­ful way. The web is a vast repos­it­ory of use­ful data and images of plants, but you can­not exper­i­ence the excite­ment and fas­cin­a­tion of observing plants in the wild by surf­ing the web. Thus, we want to com­bine the rich inform­a­tion avail­able on the web with inter­act­ive data-sharing and net­work­ing tools to make bot­an­iz­ing an act­ive, par­ti­cip­at­ory pro­cess. Botany isn’t just for plant geeks anymore!

Go Botany can be tailored to any loc­al­ity or region with a doc­u­mented list of plants. Thus, we are work­ing with three insti­tu­tional part­ners – Montshire Museum of Science (Vermont), Chewonki Foundation (Maine), and the Peabody Museum of Natural History (Connecticut) – to develop online floras for their unique set­tings. The Montshire Museum will fea­ture a guide to plants of their Woodland Trail, as well as a col­or­ful, inter­act­ive kiosk called “Hemlock Holmes” that chal­lenges kids to identify mys­tery plants. Students attend­ing the Semester School at the Chewonki Foundation will use Go Botany to doc­u­ment the flora of Chewonki Neck and sev­eral Maine islands. The Peabody Museum of Natural History will engage urban stu­dents in identi­fy­ing plants at their new West Campus in New Haven, CT. These organ­iz­a­tions attract a diversity of audi­ences, and we are devel­op­ing Go Botany with lots of built-in flex­ib­il­ity to appeal to a range of users. To intro­duce Go Botany and encour­age its wide­spread use in both the classroom and the field, we will con­duct dozens of teacher-training work­shops through­out the region and at national meet­ings in 2012–13. Teachers will be able to share the many ways they have used Go Botany, post­ing their cur­ricula and mod­ules in the Resources sec­tion of the website.

Plant identification on line

Plant iden­ti­fic­a­tion on line

Why stop at New England? Go Botany is a model that can be expor­ted nation­ally to any insti­tu­tion that seeks to develop an inter­act­ive flora and edu­ca­tional web­site tailored to their region. Thus, for example, we are col­lab­or­at­ing with sci­ent­ists at the Smithsonian Institution, who will use our soft­ware to develop an inter­act­ive key to the orch­ids of North America! Many organ­iz­a­tions, from uni­ver­sit­ies to land trusts, are express­ing interest in adapt­ing the innov­at­ive Go Botany soft­ware to their local floras. We are also host­ing a ses­sion on next-generation field guides at the Ecological Society of America national meet­ings this sum­mer, bring­ing together other high-profile innov­at­ors of web tech­no­logy such as eBird, DiscoverLife, BugGuide, and LeafSnap.

The Go Botany pro­ject is the product of many hands work­ing hard over the past two years, includ­ing the com­put­ing firm Jazkarta (Boston, MA), smart pro­gram­mers from as far away as Newfoundland and Los Angeles, seven botan­ical data spe­cial­ists, four image col­lect­ors, a cre­at­ive design team at Fresh Tilled Soil (Waltham, MA), a tal­en­ted User-experience designer (Matt Belge, VisionLogic), and many Society staff mem­bers and interns who have starred in help­ful videos, pho­to­graphed plants, and beta-tested the web applic­a­tion. The whole pro­ject is being object­ively assessed by the Lesley University Program Evaluation Research Group, which is mak­ing sure we reach our goals of enhan­cing botan­ical edu­ca­tion. We’re grate­ful to the many pho­to­graph­ers who have kindly donated plant images and many other col­lab­or­at­ors and advisors; we’ll be look­ing for your input and sug­ges­tions, too!”

Ready? Set? Go to: http://​www​.newengland​wild​.org/​g​o​b​o​t​any

New England Wildflower Society

New England Wildflower Society

The mis­sion of New England Wild Flower Society is to con­serve and pro­mote the region’s nat­ive plants to ensure healthy, bio­lo­gic­ally diverse land­scapes. Founded in 1900, the Society is the nation’s old­est plant con­ser­va­tion organ­iz­a­tion and a recog­nized leader in nat­ive plant con­ser­va­tion, hor­ti­cul­ture, and edu­ca­tion. The Society’s headquar­ters, Garden in the Woods, is a renowned nat­ive plant botanic garden in Framingham, Massachusetts, that attracts vis­it­ors from all over the world. From this base, 35 staff and more than 1,000 volun­teers work through­out New England to mon­itor and pro­tect rare and endangered plants, col­lect and pre­serve seeds to ensure bio­lo­gical diversity, detect and con­trol invas­ive spe­cies, con­duct research, and offer a range of edu­ca­tional pro­grams. The Society also oper­ates a nat­ive plant nurs­ery at Nasami Farm in west­ern Massachusetts, which grows plants for retail cus­tom­ers and for land­scap­ing and res­tor­a­tion pro­jects, and has eight sanc­tu­ar­ies in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont that are open to the public.


COMMENTS FROM 31 December 2014

I was look­ing at the logs for AoBBlog and this post is still get­ting a num­ber of hits! Obviously, 18 months of tab­let app devel­op­ment has moved on the tech­no­logy of plant iden­ti­fic­a­tion. Nearly a year ago, DrMGoesWild car­ried a guest blog from GoPlants updat­ing their devel­op­ments: http://​drm​goeswild​.com/​g​o​-​2​1​s​t​-​c​e​n​t​u​r​y​-​b​o​t​a​ny/ . Dr M blogs about the vari­ous plant iden­fit­ic­a­tion apps at http://​drm​goeswild​.com/​d​r​-​m​-​b​s​b​i​-​a​p​ps/. At this BSBI (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland), we were able to test:

apps. They were quite impress­ive … Ipflanzen is another one.

Finally, load­ing clear pic­tures into Google-image-search gives sur­pris­ingly good sug­ges­tions of your plant — although biased towards col­our (leaf or flower) rather than shape, and depend­ing on the sim­il­ar­ity with images bot­an­ists have posted.


Editor Pat Heslop-Harrison. ORCID 0000-0002-3105-2167

Pat Heslop-Harrison is Professor of Molecular Cytogenetics and Cell Biology at the University of Leicester. He is also Chief Editor of Annals of Botany.

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