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About FloraFinder.org

Hi. I’m Tom Kent. In real life I develop scientific software applications. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. Guess you could say I have low mileage feet. In Spring of 2009, I found myself with a diagnosis of type II diabetes.

I started walking at least a couple of miles a day, on trails, roadsides, or paved railroad trails. Did some mountain climbing. Well, what passes for mountain climbing when you’re in your fifties. There were all kinds of interesting things to see. Mushrooms, flowers, berries, vines, slimy gel fungi.

In late Spring my wife and I spent a couple of weeks in Arizona and its surroundings, visiting national parks, Indian ruins, botanical gardens, etc. Came home with thousands of photos. I thought it would be fun to try to identify the plants. Weeks later, with field guides piled around me and help from family and friends, I had most of them nailed. The project expanded to older photos as well. Eventually I ran out of photos. I needed more. So I started photographing plants as I walked, bringing home new ones almost daily.

I quickly found that some plants are a real challenge to identify. There are a lot of excellent field guides out there, but they are somewhat hampered by the need for portability. They can’t cover the full range of plants, and the photos or drawings are necessarily small. And although the web has many benefits, it is also a mixed bag when it comes to identifying plants. There is no simple, intuitive way to describe a plant to a search engine, so you end up doing a lot of browsing among photo collections. Many online photos lack detail because smaller photos download more quickly on slower internet connections. And while wild plants can be tough, cultivars are much more so, being numerous and poorly documented.

So why not do my own web site? With the long term goal of making it a little easier to identify plants?

It’ll take time to round out the collection and write articles for each plant. The present photos are heavily biased toward my own locale (rural MA), and toward the very common species (with the exception of photos from botanical gardens and those of friends). As the collection becomes wider in scope, I hope to make it easier for amateurs like me to identify plants.

Oh. And my blood sugar is back to normal.

 

Here’s the mission statement:

  • Non-profit web site with sole mission of helping people ID plants that are native to North America, or that were introduced from other areas of the world but are now found in the wild in North America. (I know it is a .com, FloraFinder.org was taken.)
  • Uncluttered design—no ads, simple layout, short articles. Dark neutral gray background so color perception of plants is not altered.
  • In addition to standard photos, about 3” x 3”, user can click on most photos to reveal a more detailed image. The photos will gradually change from what little I have on hand to examples of each identifying feature of a plant.
  • Focus on ID, but add some interesting bits of data, edibility and toxicity, substantiated medical uses, etc. Try to make the article a little interesting.
  • Informal, first person tone. No jargon without a definition then and there. Lots of pictures when defining terms.
  • Lots of links to the best of others’ sites, and references to printed information.
  • Simple search capability finds types of plants (e.g. trees, mosses, mushrooms), searches by common or Latin names, or restricts search to a state or province.
  • The real long term goal is guided searches—playing a kind of “twenty questions” game with the site visitor to zero in on the type of plant.

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