Resources, classroom activities, and natural history databases

Can’t see the trees for the forest? Wilfred Franklin describes a series of activities she uses to introduce basic plant ecological sampling and use it to answer some questions about invasive species. She is lucky to have a small forest on campus nearby but the exercises could easily be adapted to an urban landscape. The effectiveness of the activities in combating “plant blindness” is indicated by students’ frequent spontaneous use of their cell phones to document their plant identifications.

Supermarket Botany teaches students about the differences between fruits and vegetables, the differences between roots, stems and leaves and the developmental sequence from flowers to fruits.

The Center for Ecoliteracy includes lessons, articles, and principles to further ecological teaching and learning.

Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology. A peer-reviewed publication about ecological education that also includes instructional materials.

National Science Digital Library, the nation’s online library for education and research in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.

VideosPhotograph of students pressing plant specimens.

Botanical Society of America Resources 


Below are links to other herbaria, consortia, and data repositories that have herbarium specimen data available online. Many of the collections are in the process of being databased now, so the information available online does not represent the entire collection. More information becomes available every week.

The user interface is different for each of these; some are easier to use than others. What can be done with the data also varies; some of the sites have mapping functions built in, but all do not.


The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), which has information on animals as well as plants.

iDigBio, a National Science Foundation-sponsored repository of global natural history data from US institutions.


North America

SEINet Regional Networks of North American Herbaria

The Consortium of Northeastern Herbaria

Harvard University Herbaria

The Consortium of California Herbaria

The Oklahoma Vascular Plants Database

The Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden

University of Arizona Herbarium

The Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center at the University of Texas at Austin

Missouri Botanical Garden Herbarium

PLANTS database, maintained by the United States Department of Agriculture. This site doesn’t have specimen information but provides information on the ecology of plants and on their distributions.


Non-North American Resources (English language websites)

Botanical Society of the British Isles

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Australasian Virtual Herbarium


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