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UF/IFAS’ new FloraGator website can help students learn to classify plants by family

Topic(s): CALS, Environment, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — FloraGator, an online plant identification website developed by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is now available via mobile app and Internet website.

The site enables users to take information about a flowering plant and determine which of Florida’s 196 flowering plant families it represents. Get it with an app released June 25 on Apple iTunes, or by visiting http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/floragator. The site is aimed at students attending UF science classes where plant identification is an important part of the curriculum.

To get the most out of FloraGator, users must know specific details about the structure of the plant they’re trying to identify, and be able to express those details in technical terms.

And that’s the point, says Sandra Wilson, an ornamental horticulture professor at UF’s Indian River Research and Education Center.

“We looked at this as almost a foreign-language exercise, where you have to commit to really immersing yourself in the terms,” Wilson said.

One of Wilson’s doctoral students developed most of the material for the site; Wilson and Luke Flory, a UF agronomy assistant professor, assisted as well.

The multi-key system presents users with drop-down menus where they can specify details about the plant’s appearance, by answering multiple-choice questions. The system rules out plant families that don’t meet the criteria and whittles down the list of possibilities.

The site could be a valuable addition to many upper-division university courses in plant taxonomy and plant systematics.

Many of the plant families included on FloraGator are found in other parts of the U.S., Wilson said, so the website could be useful to those outside the Sunshine State.

And for the less ambitious user, it also includes a collection of beautiful 19th century illustrations to admire, and links to online information about the plant families included on the site.

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Source: Sandra Wilson, 772-468-3922, ext. 107, sbwilson@ufl.edu

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