What Is a Flora?

A flora is a comprehensive, systematic account of the plant species of a given area — in this case, North America north of Mexico.

The Need

Now more than ever, we need the very best scientific information about the plants of our continent. New scientific technologies and methodologies, like gene sequencing, phylogenetics, and geographical information systems, are powerful tools for analyzing data on plants in ways never before possible. Habitat destruction and the recognition that we must manage ecosystems wisely to preserve biodiversity make it more important than ever that we understand the biology and relationships of plants that form a particular ecosystem. New plants are still being discovered in North America north of Mexico — more than 1100 in the past 20 years. Invasive alien plants have become one of the greatest threats to native species and habitats — some $30 billion are spent each year to control weeds in the U.S. alone.

The direction of development will be guided by both economic and ecological considerations, and wise planning must be based upon reliable information. Flora of North America is indispensable as a compendium of information for the management of resources, for land use planning, and for conservation efforts. As a continent-wide effort, it provides a nomenclatural reference on which research and economic development of plants can be based.

The Project

Flora of North America builds upon the cumulative wealth of information acquired since botanical studies began in the United States and Canada more than two centuries ago. Recent research has been integrated with historical studies, so that the Flora of North America is a single-source synthesis of North American floristics. FNA has the full support of scientific botanical societies and is the botanical community's vehicle for synthesizing and presenting this information.

The Flora of North America Project will treat more than 20,000 species of plants native or naturalized in North America north of Mexico, about 7% of the world's total. Both vascular plants and bryophytes are included.

Species descriptions are written and reviewed by experts from the systematic botanical community worldwide, based on original observations of living and herbarium specimens supplemented by a crucial review of the literature. Each treatment includes scientific and common names, taxonomic descriptions, identification keys, distribution maps, illustrations, summaries of habitat and geographic ranges, pertinent synonomy, chromosome numbers, phenology, ethnobotanical uses and toxicity, and other relevant biological information.

Bryophyte Flora of North America (Homepage):
The goal of BFNA project is to produce taxonomic treatments of the nearly 1900 species of North American bryophytes by 2006. An offshoot of the Flora of North America project. Many illustrations, keys, and treatments have already been added.

For more information on the history of the project and of floristics in general, go to the History page.