Guide to the Search and Mapping Tools of the San Diego County Plant Atlas
How to search the SDNHM botanical database and use the mapping tools
One of the first problems you may
encounter when searching for a plant or mapping a plant is that in the world of botany scientific, or latin, names are used exclusively.
To assist the non-professional users of the Plant Atlas, a name finding
tool is included. The Name Finder page can be found on the Database Search
You can use the name finder to find the scientific name of a plant by entering all or any part of the common name.
For example, if you wanted to find a plant whose common name included the term "mallow", the name finder will produce plants including Chaparral Bushmallow
), Thick-Leaf Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua
), and 16 others. Each plant name listing includes a link to a Google®
image search for a photo of the plant.
Searching the Database
General Search of the database
The herbarium of the San Diego Natural History Museum contains nearly 80,000 collected specimens
from San Diego County, all databased and all georeferenced.
Some specimens date back to the 1800's, and with the Plant Atlas currently active, the collection continues to grow. Searches of the database can be done by
plant name, collector, dates and date intervals, locality names, and Atlas Squares. Any or all of the search criteria may be used for a search. the results of the
search can be viewed on the screen or downloaded to an Excel table or Word document. The Atlas Grid of the Plant Atlas is a grid based on the Township and Range
survey, and used to assign collection areas to volunteer collectors. The grid consists of nearly 500 3-mile square segments; a link on the search page opens
a view of the grid for reference purposes.
You will find the database search page at the Search the Database
link under the
Search Within a Map Rectangle
You can search for all the plants collected within a rectangular area
that you draw yourself on a map. The base map is a Microsoft Bing Map that can be moved and zoomed as required. You can draw a rectangle anywhere on the map and
click a button to get a complete list of the collection within that rectangle. The list appears in a box on the page and can be copied to a document. In the example to the left, the user has
drawn a rectangle containing the Ramona area. The allowable size of the rectangle is restricted to limit the number of results. The user
gets a message on the screen if the rectangle is too large.
You will find map rectangle search page at the Search a Map Rectangle
link under the
Search Within a Map Polygon
If you want to work a bit harder, and draw a detailed polygon on the map rather than a
simple rectangle, you can choose to do that with the Search a Map Polygon tool.
You use the same Bing Map that can be moved and zoomed as required, drawing a polygon anywhere on the map and
clicking a button to get a complete list of the collection within that polygon. The list appears in a box on the page and can be copied to a document. The polygon can be
as complicated as you please with no limit to the number of points. In the example on the right, a user has drawn a polygon to encompass the area
to the west of Anza Borrego State Park, between it and the Cleveland National Forest.
You will find map rectangle search page at the Search a Map Polygon
link under the
Customized Map Searches
Customized map searches off the full power of GIS, providing a true spatial search of
the Botany database and allowing users to create and save their own custom shapes. Users can search within a shape, or search within any distance from a shape.
They can search within a radius of any point, or any
distance from a line, a single line or a multi-part line such as a river. And a user can create and store a shape for current and future use.
This powerful searching capability is offered only to current Parabotanists who have a valid login. The page is accessed from the
link under the Database Search
drop-down menu. Users will first encounter a log-in page which
requires their Parabotanist credentials. The Search Page
offers a text entry box into which the user enters a genus or a series of genera separated
by commas, that will be the subject of the search. Note: These searches are not limited by area, so they are restricted to individual genera to limit the
number of results.
The user then enters a distance for the limits of the search around the shape, line, or point. Then either a shape, line, point, or
Atlas Square is selected as the focus of the search. If selecting a polygon shape, the user selects from a drop-down list that includes a number of
preprogrammed shapes and whatever shapes the particular user has stored. Stored shapes are private to the individual user.
page is used to draw shapes and save them as named shapes or lines that will be available to the user.
Special options are available on request. Users can, if they wish, ask the
Botany Department to make any shape they developed into a publicly available shape. Users can also provide ESRI shape files that we will include in the
saved shapes either for that user or all users. Users can request customized searches using their shapes and search criteria not available on the
web search page.
Mapping Plant Species
Quick Distribution Maps
For users who want to see the distribution of any collected plant, this tool
provides that in a fast, simple map. Two species can be mapped together as shown in the example.
Plant distributions can be shown on any of five selectable maps: a general county map with roads and terrain, a vegetation-type map, a topographical map,
an Atlas Grid map, and an ecological regions map. Users can also choose to map specimens from either or both of the botanical databases.
The page is accessed
Qucik Distribution Mapping
link under the Mapping
Map Species on Google® Maps
Mapping plant species on Google Maps is the most flexible mapping method available
to users of the web site. Any number of species can be mapped and overlaid on the map simultaneously, limited only by your computer's and the map's
internal capacity. As each species is mapped, the listed data is displayed in a box at the bottom of the page, and a set of icons for the specimen
locations is displayed on the map. You can turn on the Atlas Grid for reference. You can resize the map if your screen is capable of a larger display.
You can click anywhere on the map to show the latitude and longitude of the point on which you clicked.
The page is accessed from the
Plant Species on Google Maps
link under the Mapping
Some users prefer to use the Berkeley Mapper, another Google Maps-based species mapper. The Berkeley Mapper
is a service provided by UC Berkeley
and is also found on the drop-down menu. To see the complete distribution of any particular genus, use the Genus Distribution Map
Plant Atlas on Google Earth
If you use Google Earth, you can download the complete Plant Atlas
database as a Google Earth "place".
If you're familiar with Google Earth kml file downloads, there are three "layers" you can download into your Google Earth directly:
Atlas Grid (overlay of the grid)
Plant Atlas List (icons, one per square, clickable to produce
a list of collections from that square)
SD Herbarium specimens (updated periodically)
Note that Google Earth is a demanding program, and coupled with 70,000 or so of our data points, it can act strangely at times.
Google Earth may not perform well with these overlays on older, slower, computers.
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