The United States Department of Agriculture provides services that help to identify different plant species that grow within the United States and its territories. The most available way to use these services is through the Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. This service is available online and provides information about a wide variety of species of plants, both native and introduced.
The USDA incorporates information on a collaborative basis from a number of different academic and informational resources including the National Plant Data Center, various state and private universities and research centers, the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau Of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers.
About the Database
The PLANTS database provides standardized information on a given species and its cultivars, including regional maps and images of vascular plants, mosses, lichens, and horn- and liverworts within the United States. It provides specific information about the form and appearance, growth habits, distribution, native status and other information that can assist in identifying a specific plant. The image library holds over 40,000 images.
Information about specific plant species can be brought up using a search on either the scientific or common name. Search by state, plant characteristics and scientific classification can also be performed. The advanced search in particular is very effective in isolating specific plant species. It incorporates specific details about a species such as the leaf, flower, seed and fruit structure, colors, form, growth rate and habits, size, growing conditions and distribution, returning a list of plants that meet the specifications.
The USDA also offers a number of fact sheets and plant guides, with almost 800 entries available. These are organized presentations that provide a brief yet comprehensive overview of many of the most common plants in America. The information includes descriptions of the plant, including the appearance of its foliage, flowers, fruit, form and shape, its habitat and growth habits. The fact sheets and guides are available in both document and PDF formats.
Information the USDA does not maintain directly within the PLANTS database, it makes available as links to external resources that can assist in plant identification. These links include photographic libraries and university and research center web sites that can provide more information to help identify a given plant species.