About the Atlas - Introductions


The idea of the Alabama Plant Atlas arose out of the Flora of Alabama Checklist Committee. The checklist committee was formed in 2001 at Auburn University and was comprised of several botanists mainly working in Alabama. The goal of the committee was to create a document listing all species of vascular plants that occur or have been known to occur in Alabama. The major criterion for each species to be "checked" on the list was the existence of a herbarium specimen to serve as a voucher for that species occurring in the state. Through this process, it became apparent that several state herbaria have excellent collections especially in local proximity, however the sheer number of collections in each herbarium remained somewhat modest compared with some herbaria in other surrounding states.  As the checklist was nearing completion, a hard copy Atlas was proposed in order to pool all of the data from the state herbaria in the form of county "dot maps" for each species. While historically this has been done many times for other states or regions, the major drawback has always been a hardcopy atlas is a snapshot of a particular time that is quickly out of date as inevitable botanical discoveries will continually be made.  Members of the checklist committee became interested in finding a way to consolidate all herbarium data in a virtual environment which could be updated as flora data for Alabama is continually gathered and compiled. Quick searches on the internet revealed other states were undertaking similar projects as in Florida and New York. The Alabama Herbarium Consortium (AHC) was created to proceed in the development of an online plant atlas.  The Alabama Plant Atlas project joined the University of South Florida family of Plantatlas.org sites which provided the web development for this site. All Alabama plant data is curated by the membership herbaria of the Alabama Herbarium Consortium.


Our team of botanists/herbarium curators in the Alabama Herbarium Consortium has worked very hard and continues to strive to produce research quality information in a format that is educational and informative.  While it may not be perfect, many users throughout Alabama, the southeast, and around the world have and continue to utilize the information contained within.  We also take plant conservation very serious and have often discussed the parameters of which plant species’ locality information should be available on the Alabama Plant Atlas.  We feel that the greater educational good is served by as much information being available as possible.  As such, our policy is as follows:

The location data will be obscured from public view for all of the following species or species groups:  all Federally listed species, Ginseng (Panax quinquifolius), all Sarracenia, Trillium (listed on the Alabama Natural Heritage Program Tracking List), most orchids (showy orchid species as well as all orchids listed on the ALNHP Tracking List), narrow ranging endemic species (i.e. Hexastylis speciosa, Dalea cahaba), non-endemic native species with fewer than 5 known populations (i.e. Callirhoe papaver, Liatris cylindricea), and any other showy species listed on the ALNHP Tracking List that has the potential for serving as an attractive garden species. 

Locations of other various rare but non-showy species typically are not obscured as we feel they are very unlikely to be exploited.  These include but not limited to: woody plants, grasses, sedges, etc. No non-native taxa should have locality information obscured.
It should be noted that this policy is the minimum amount of data obscuring.  Some curators have elected to be more restrictive with the locality data they curate, which is their prerogative. Also, please note that the ALNHP Tracking list is revised each year with additions and deletions.  Species that were formally on the list may have the locality information obscured in the Atlas even though the status of that species has changed.


We are very thankful for the funding and infrastructure provided by The University of West Alabama and further funding by Legacy Inc., Partners in Environmental Education both of which made the Atlas possible.  The Alabama Wildflower Society, the Huntsville Chapter of the Alabama Wildflower Society, Dr. Alvin Diamond, and Dr. Mike Hardig are all also greatly appreciated for their monetary support.


Distribution information compiled from herbarium specimens and the nomenclature are entered into a Microsoft SQL Server database management system (PlantDB).  Specimen data, including distribution information compiled from herbarium specimens, are entered into a Microsoft SQL Server database management system (PlantDB).  Atlas web pages are generated directly from the PlantDB database using the ASP program language served from Microsoft's Internet Information Server.  Maps are generated directly from PlantDB using ESRI MapObjects 2.0 technology residing on a Microsoft NT server.  Because the Atlas web site is generated directly from PlantDB, all web pages and maps are as up to date as the information entered into the database.  All data is maintained on servers the University of West Alabama.  The PlantDB database management system was designed by Shawn Landry of the Florida Center for Community Design and Research (FCCDR) with the help of Jeb Holub (Axis Technologies, Inc.) and Bruce Hansen of Institute of Systematic Botany (ISB).  All ASP programming was developed by Jeb Holub under the direction of the FCCDR and ISB.  Web page graphic design was created by Kristin Parker (FCCDR) with assistance from Kevin Kerrigan.  Questions regarding the technology behind the Alabama Plant Atlas can be directed to Shawn Landry at the Florida Center for Community Design and Research at the University of South Florida.

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