Total-Plant, a native plant online photo library, is a treasure trove of botanical information. The site is a passion project created by Tim Lukaszewski, a retired physician, and Paul Preston, a retired nonprofit director, who have been hiking, botanizing, and photographing native plants for years. Although they are neither career botanists nor professional photographers, both men are crazy about plants.
In the course of photographing and keying out plants in the field, Tim and Paul would often try to confirm plant identification by looking at photos in books or online. Finding their resources were typically limited to flower images meant often they were left wondering. Having identified this information gap their solution was to compile a photo set for individual native plants showing habitat, the entire plant, as well as individual photos showing leaves, flowers, and fruit. The Total-Plant database grew out of an attempt to organize thousands of native plant photos and keep track of which plants they’d seen, where they saw them, and which photos were still needed.
Search functions on the site allow users to sort by plant name (common or botanical), region, and characteristics. A comparative feature allows users to study and contrast up to four plants in a side-by-side analysis of flowers, leaves, fruit, the entire plant, or habitat. A much more exhaustive list of sorting attributes, including bark, flowers by sex, seed cones, thorns, disease—even dead plants, helps distil things even further. Users are encouraged to contribute their own photos to further populate the online resource. And a “Help ID These” page even invites users to lend their expertise to help flesh out information on mystery plants.
While Total-Plant is newly launched and like all websites is still a work in progress, an informative FAQ page leads users through the site’s functions, provides helpful hints, and lists additional resources.
Tim and Paul stress that they would like to see their work evolve into a community project, one that’s free of any commercial or financial interest. “Total-Plant is simply our gift to the world with hopes that others will be inspired and learn.” Start exploring at www.total-plant.org.