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Mr. Smarty Plants - Number of wild flowers in Durham NC compared to all of North Carolina

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Friday - April 24, 2009

From: Durham, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Number of wild flowers in Durham NC compared to all of North Carolina
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

How many wild flowers have been identified in the North Carolina Area compared to just in Durham. I would like to photograph them all and want to know how close I can get to capturing photos of all the flowers that have been found.

ANSWER:

If we take the definition given by the American Heritage Dictionary of the American Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), a wildflower is "a flowering plant that grows in a natural, uncultivated state".  That definition, then,  would include trees, shrubs, vines and grasses as well as herbaceous plants.  Searching the USDA Plants Database, Mr. Smarty Plants found that 3,731 native flowering plants have been identified for all of North Carolina and 963 species for Durham County.  That seemed like a formidable number to photograph so Mr. Smarty Plants narrowed the two lists to include just herbaceous flowering plants and found that there are 2,323 herbaceous native wildflower species identified for all of North Carolina and 595 herbaceous native wildflower species that occur in Durham County—still a large number of plants to find and photograph.

Our Native Plant Database contains many, but not all, those native plants listed in the USDA Plants Database.  A COMBINATION SEARCH choosing 'North Carolina' under Select State or Province will give you a list of 2,105 plants (including trees, shrubs, vines, grasses).  However, that list includes some non-flowering plants (e.g., ferns and gymnosperms—pines, spruces, etc.) that don't real count as "wildflowers".   You can do another COMBINATION SEARCH choosing 'North Carolina' under Select State or Province, then 'Herb' under Habit (general appearance) and you will come up with 1,264 native species for North Carolina.  Finding which of these species is found in Durham County on our database is a little more complicated. To narrow the list down to species that are found in Durham, you will need to go to the page for each individual species. On the species page scroll down to ADDITIONAL RESOURCES and click on the USDA link, then click on North Carolina on the map on the USDA Plant Database page and you will get another map showing county distribution of the plant.

The Native Plant Information Network is always looking for high quality, high-res images of North American native plant species.  More than 100 photographers have already contributed nearly  25,000 images to the effort.  If you are looking for a way to make your photographs available to tens of thousands of native plant enthusiasts and researchers, you would find no better place to showcase them than the NPIN Image Gallery.  For more information about donating images to NPIN, please see the Contribute Images webpage on our website.

You might like to contact the Margaret Reid (Triangle) Chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society to see if they have checklists of native plants for your general area.  This would give you a list to begin with.

So—this project may be a little larger and more complicated than you might have thought it would be. However, if you want to try it, Mr. Smarty Plants says "Good luck and more power to you!"

 

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