Why are there two San Diego Natural History Museum Botany databases to search?
       Plant Atlas Home                      San Diego Natural History Museum Home

In brief: The Herbarium database holds data for the collection of accessioned specimens. The Plant Atlas database holds data for the collections of the Plant Atlas project, and therefore includes specimens that have not yet been accessioned. An unaccessioned Plant Atlas specimen is identified by an index number in the form of abc#123. When a Plant Atlas specimen is mounted and accessioned, the data is copied into the Herbarium DB and the specimen is identified by the accession number. When a search is done using both databases, no duplicate specimens will be shown.

  The San Diego County Plant Atlas project began in 2003. At that time the herbarium at the SDNHM held about 150,000 specimens, approximately half of which had been entered into the Herbarium Database. These older specimens date back to the 1870s and are from across North America, but the focus of collection for the last half-century has been the southwestern US and northern Mexico, especially Baja California. We continue to add specimens to the herbarium, and to the herbarium database, from our entire region of interest. However, the growth of the herbarium took a leap with the inception of the Plant Atlas. As of February 2014 the herbarium holds nearly 215,000 specimens, and is growing at a rate of nearly 10,000 specimens per year.

   A separate database, the Plant Atlas Database, was developed to handle the incoming data from the Parabotanists. Partly this was to facilitate the web-based interactive features of the project, partly because some different fields were needed, and partly to allow the data to be available for searching and mapping as soon the specimens were collected. Processing the specimens into the herbarium means waiting for them to be brought to the museum, labels printed, identifications checked, and plants mounted and accessioned into the collection, which might take a year or more. At that point the specimen is filed into the herbarium and its record is copied into the main herbarium database. Ultimately, all the Plant Atlas records will have been integrated into the main Herbarium database, and the Plant Atlas database will then be archived.

   There are significant differences between the two databases. In general the Plant Atlas database has more current data, with carefully checked identifications and precise localities. The plant names have all been updated to the latest botanical nomenclature, as established in the 4th edition of the Checklist of the Vascular Plants of San Diego County and the Jepson Manual, second edition. The Herbarium database has a longer historical record and history of scrutiny by taxonomic experts.

   An IMLS grant has allowed us to bring the data for the older specimens up to a standard that will allow those records to be integrated with the Plant Atlas records. The San Diego County records have now been entered into the database, and the localities of all San Diego records examined and georeferenced, although the locality information on many of the very old specimens is so vague that they cannot be placed with any precision.

   Name changes and corrections of identifications for the older specimens will be done as they become necessary, but these tasks are enormously labor-intensive, so this will be an ongoing process. Unfortunately this will complicate searching the database, as older specimens may be listed under old names and Plant Atlas specimens under new names. See the Checklist for older synonyms of current names; some of the mapping functions on this website allow searching for two names at the same time.

   A search of the Herbarium database alone will produce records from the San Diego County collection, including Plant Atlas specimens that have been mounted and accessioned, but not those still being processed. A search of both databases will include unprocessed Plant Atlas specimens for which the identifications have been confirmed by Jon Rebman or some other expert. If you wish to include unverified Plant Atlas specimen records you must check the box to request them.

   The number in the Index column is the SD Accession Number for the accessioned specimens, or the index number for unaccessioned Plant Atlas specimens. The locality data provided in this search is limited to the Atlas Square, which, for the Herbarium specimens, was calculated from the latitude and longitude if available. A map of the Atlas Squares can be found in the drop-down menus of the Plant Atlas home page. A capability of mapping specimens from both databases can also be found on that web page.