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. Considering the combined total of both native and naturalized vascluar plant species, Florida is the 3rd most diverse state in the USA, while it ranks 7th if counting only native plants and 4th for non-native plants (Kartesz 2015). However, given that Florida ranks 22nd in size among states, Florida is especially species rich per unit of area.

Non-native species are those thought to have naturalized via human-mediated dispersal 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 (e.g. see Webb 1985; Shrader-Frechette 2001; Coile 2002; Hall 2003). Assessments of nativity are difficult in many circumstances for various reasons, including 1) the lack of knowledge of the Florida flora during the few hundred years before and after 1513 (e.g. Ludwigia grandiflora), 2) the presence of both native and non-native strains (e.g. Hamelia patens), 3) hybridization between native and non-native taxa (e.g. Lantana x floridana), 4) taxa native to some areas and introduced in other areas of Florida (e.g. Platanus occidentalis), 5) taxa cultivated by indigenous humans ere 1513 (e.g. Lagenaria siceraria, see Hutchinson et al. 2016), and 6) the possibility that a species may have recently arrived to Florida after 1513 via natural means without human-aided dispersal. 

The knowledge of the flora of any large region will always remain dynamic as new species are discovered and others disappear. Many counties or areas of Florida are still poorly documented. Users are encouraged to document new distributional records by submitting specimens to their local herbarium and notifying this Atlas 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. For the ~4,700 plant species in the 67 counties of Florida (68 counting Monroe Keys here mapped as a separate geographic entity), there are ~80,000 county records currently on the Atlas. The county-level species distribution 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 2018 report . 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. 

Names often change due to differing taxonomic concepts. Deciding how many species to recognize or which genus should be used is not always clear. Many other reasons for name changes 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 or ruderal areas) are not mapped.

How do I make a herbarium specimen? Check out http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herbarium/voucher.htm or pages 45-48 of USF Herbarium Report. 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.


We graciously thank the following individuals for their recent valuable contributions to the Atlas:
David Almquist, Loran Anderson, Daniel Austin, John Beckner, Andrea Bishop, Keith Bradley, Edwin Bridges, James Burkhalter, James Cheak, Ron Chicone, Kris DeLaney, Stephen Dickman, Marc Frank, Elizabeth Gandy, George Gann, Roger Hammer, John Kunzer, Patricia Howell, Brett Jestrow, Ann Johnson, James Lange, Wayne Longbottom, Austin Mast, Chuck McCartney, Steve Myers, Steve Orzell, Kent Perkins, Erick Revuelta, Rosalind Rowe, Jimi Sadle, Cecil Slaughter, Mark Strong, Walter Taylor, Carmel vanHoek, Steve Woodmansee, David Williams, and many, many others.


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 photographs, especially for species, plant parts, or developmental phases not well represented. 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


University of South Florida Libraries

4101 USF Apple Dr

Tampa, FL 33620