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Website of the Week — USDA Plants Database

Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.

This time we feature a comprehensive catalog of plants aimed at promoting land conservation in the United States, but it's a tremendous resource for anyone interested in botany, anywhere in the world, and you don't need to know a plant's scientific name to get started.

CLARK: "Oh, no. I mean, that's one of the exciting things about the Plants database. It has so many access points. If you're a botanist or a plant scientist, you can come into the plant database using scientific names, etc. But for the common user, it also allows you to search by common names."

That's Larry Clark of the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, home of the Plants database at plants.usda gov. He says that although American plants are the sole focus right now, many of them are found throughout the world, and in any event there are some expansion plans to, shall we say, grow the site.

CLARK: "One of the things that we're going to do with the plant database next year is expand it to our partners in the Pacific basin, and we'll be adding more plants to the database as we bring those locations online."

Clark says there really isn't anything like this online resource for the flora of any other country, but they've been discussing partnerships and collaboration, so keep your eye open for that.

One of the best parts of the Plants database is the online gallery of more than 30,000 photos and drawings of plants, which you're free to use for educational or scientific purposes.

What's especially valuable about this site, says Larry Clark, is that all the information has been vetted by top specialists in the field.

CLARK: "Most of the data come from top plant scientists and botanists around the world. So we're constantly mining the research environment, trying to pull in new data, new research and put that information into the plant database."

All that, plus the plant of the week, on our Website of the Week — the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plants database at plants.usda gov, or get the link from our site,