About the Atlas


Florida contains over 4,700 species of native or naturalized plants, including about 400 bryophytes, 175 pteridophytes, 20 gymnosperms, and 4,100 angiosperms. About 3,200 species are considered native, of which 230 species or infraspecies are endemic to Florida and many others are nearly endemic. About 1,500 species are considered non-native and naturalized. Non-native species are those thought to have naturalized on or after 1513, the alleged year of Ponce de León's arrival to Florida (Feder 1994; Turner 2013) which was succeeded by sustained exposure of Florida to international contacts.

The Atlas of Florida Plants provides a source of information for the distribution of plants within the state. It also serves as a resource for the the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida (Wunderlin 1998; Wunderlin and Hansen 2003, 2011) and for various regional floras, such as Long and Lakela (1971), Wunderlin (1982), and Clewell (1985).

The documented occurrence of a species in a county is indicated by shading of that county on the maps. The Florida Keys consist of the chain of islands from Key Largo to the Marquesas Keys and the Dry Tortugas. Politically, they are part of Monroe County, but are phytogeographically distinct and are mapped separately from mainland Monroe County.

The knowledge of the flora of any large region will always remain dynamic as new species are discovered and others disappear. Certain counties or areas of the state that previously were sparsely collected will undoubtedly gain the attention of botanists eager to fill in the distributional gaps. Users are encouraged to document new distributional records by submitting specimens to their local herbarium and notifying the authors of the new records.


THE ROLE of HERBARIA (list of Florida herbaria)

The occurrence of a species in the Atlas of Florida Plants is nearly exclusively based on a preserved specimen in a herbarium. The county-level species distirubtion maps for the Atlas are synthesized from numerous herbaria, which together hold well over a half million preserved plant specimens collected from Florida. County records are primarily derived from Florida herbaria, including the University of Florida (FLAS), Florida State University (FSU), Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTG), University of South Florida (USF), Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services' Division of Plant Industry (PIHG), Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (SEL), the South Florida Collections Management Center (FNPS), Naples Botanic Garden (SWF), University of Central Florida (FTU), Florida Park Service (district 4, FLSP), Archbold Biological Station (ARCH), and the University of West Florida (UWFP).



To learn more about the USF Herbarium, click on the following PDF links for a 1971 report (PDF, 3.4MB) or a 2017 report (PDF, 5.1MB). To see the departmental page about the herbarium, please click here.



Specimen data, including distribution information compiled from herbarium specimens, are entered into a Microsoft SQL Server database management system (PlantDB).  Atlas web pages are generated directly from the PlantDB database using the ASP program language served from Microsoft's Internet Information Server.  Maps are generated directly from PlantDB using ESRI MapObjects 2.0 technology residing on a Microsoft NT server.  Because the Atlas web site is generated directly from PlantDB, all web pages and maps are as up-to-date as the information entered into the database.

All servers are maintained at the USF Water Institute at the University of South Florida.  The PlantDB database management system was designed by Shawn Landry with the help of Jeb Holub (Axis Technologies, Inc.) and Bruce Hansen (ISB). All ASP programming was developed by Jeb Holub under the direction of the FCCDR and ISB.  Web page graphic design was created by Kristin Parker with assistance from Kevin Kerrigan.  Questions regarding the technology behind the Atlas of Florida Plants can be directed to Shawn Landry at the USF Water Institute.



The Atlas of Florida Plants has received funding from: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Southwest Florida Water Management District, South Florida Water Management District, St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Transportation, Suncoast Native Plant Society, Florida Wildflower Foundation, and Florida Native Plant Society.  Funding for initial development of this project was provided by Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Nongame Wildlife Program and supported by the Florida Department of Transportation.


Why do names and classifications change?

Taxonomic names are meant to be unique and used internationally. With billions of potential users for taxonomic names, unnecessary changes to names should generally be avoided. Thus, the systematics community seeks to stabilize nomenclature and avoid unwanted disruption.

The systematics community strives for monophyletic groups above the species level (e.g. genus, family, order). With monophyly, all the members of a group are derived from a common ancestor and classifications are meant to be more predictive, i.e. that all the species in a monophyletic genus are likely very similar chemically and biologically. DNA often tells us much more, and, consequently, DNA analyses have catalyzed many reclassifications. It is also helpful to users if a monophyletic group can be easily defined with unique morphological characters. 

There are many other reasons names change, especially at the species or infraspecific level. Most of these reasons are covered by the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants. Generally these rules ensure that the earliest publication of a name is used and that the names are defined by a physical description in combination with a physical herbarium specimen or an illustration.


Other FAQs

Where can I find a certain species to grow it? You may want to check out: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/, http://www.fnps.org/plants, http://flawildflowers.org/sponsorsandservices.php, http://floridawildflowers.com/pages/Bulk-Seeds-by-Species.html, or http://www.afnn.org/.

What is the proper care for growing a certain species? Consider contacting your local extension office: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ and also see http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/.

Why isn't this species mapped for a county where I know it occurs? The Atlas is a specimen derived database. It maps the distribution of non-cultivated native and non-native vascular plants based on documentation through herbarium voucher specimens. Please contact your local herbarium if you would like to submit a voucher specimen to record the species for a particular county. Cultivated plants that are not naturalized (not reproducing and spreading into natural areas) are not mapped.

How do I make a herbarium specimen? Check out http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herbarium/voucher.htm or http://www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/documents/USF-Herbarium-2017.pdf (pages 41-43). Make sure you have permission and the proper permits, if needed.

How do I identify my plant? Beyond technical manuals and this website, please consider contacting your local herbarium or your local extension office (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/). There are also a few Facebook groups who are very helpful with plant identification in Florida.



An accurate database of plant distributions depends on the continuous work of thousands of botanists and enthusiasts alike.  Because the Atlas of Florida Plants is an ongoing and dynamic project, we welcome new information to improve the website and are grateful for any voucher specimen or duplicate shared with USF.


We graciously thank the following individuals for their recent valuable contributions:
Loran Anderson
Daniel Austin
John Beckner
Andrea Bishop
Keith Bradley
Edwin Bridges
Ron Chicone
Stephen Dickman
Elizabeth Gandy
John Kunzer
Patricia Howell
Wayne Longbottom
Steve Myers
Steve Orzell
Kent Perkins
Cecil Slaughter
Mark Strong
Carmel vanHoek
David Williams


Photo Credits

The more than 17,000 photographs presented on the Atlas of Florida Plants website represent the kind donation of many photographers; the major ones are listed below.  We are always receptive to further excellent photographs, especially those for species currently not or little illustrated, or for plant parts and developmental phases not now illustrated. Contact Bruce F. Hansen or Richard P. Wunderlin for submission information.

All photographs are copyright protected, but are available for non-commercial use in any educational, scientific, or non-profit venture.  Permission for use of particular photographs can be obtained by contacting Bruce F. Hansen or Richard P. Wunderlin who can further direct the request to the photographer or copyright holder in question.


Major Contributors
Guy Anglin
Bob Bierman
Allen Boatman
Keith Bradley
Shirley Denton
Dennis Girard
Roger Hammer
Patricia Howell
John Kunzer
Matthew Merritt
Gil Nelson
Walter K. Taylor
Dan Tenaglia
Betty Wargo
Teekeela Ann Williams


Contact the authors:

Richard P. Wunderlin

Bruce F. Hansen

Alan R. Franck

Fred B. Essig

Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology
University of South Florida, ISA 2015
4202 East Fowler Avenue
Tampa, FL 33620-5150