BONAP: Biota of North America Plant Atlas

Another guest post by Michael Lynch

I'd like to introduce more people to the Biota of North America Program. 

Biota of North America - North American Plant Atlas

The Biota of North America Program is an online database of maps of most of the native and naturalized species of plants growing in North America. It is a work in progress, and a valuable tool for learning about wild plants and their native range across the continent. 

I would like to go over their maps and give people an idea of how to use them.
The maps look like this.

They focus mainly on the United states, (hopefully they will eventually expand to Canada since we live so close.) Use herbarium records to collect their data, meaning that these are official records of plants growing in the wild, not in a garden, or escaped from human cultivation. These give good ideas of where a plant normally grows.

The list by genus is rather daunting, so you will probably want to have a plant in mind before browsing their long list of genera. They also use latin names only and they often have the most up-to-date latin names, so if you are looking for asters, you have to look under Symphotrychium. 

I like to look at their maps to see what kind of habitat a plant likes.
For example Mexican Hat. I am at the eastern edge of Mexican Hat's range in Minnesota. It is more common in the great plains and short grass prairie. In Minnesota, that means it likes it dry and sunny.

Large Flowered Trillium grows in climax forests. I am on the south west edge of it's range, meaning I should expect it to do well in a moist rich woodland. 

You can also see particular types of habitats across the country by looking at the range maps of species that have very specific habitat requirements.

Purple Pitcher plants grow in sphagnum peat bogs. By looking at the map, you get a pretty good idea of where in the country sphagnum bogs are located. 

For a plant geek like me, I have found these maps quite useful, and a rather fun waste of time browsing maps of everything I kind of recognize. They are also useful tool for a regular gardner who wants to know where their favorite wild flower grows.