This project is intended to accurately describe the Vascular Flora of Georgia since no manual of the flora for Georgia presently exists. Flora is a term applied to the plants, both native and naturalized, that grow in a given area or region, while a manual of a flora is a book that describes the plants of an area or region. Some manuals of floras for many of the surrounding states, such as North and South Carolina and Alabama, are outdated and do not encompass the diversity of plants found in Georgia. Other local regional floras that overlap Georgia, such as those for the Florida and the Blue Ridge physiographic province also do not cover Georgia's total vascular plant diversity. The diverse climatic zones, from temperate in north to subtropical in the south, partly account for Georgia's vascular plant diversity and its lack of comprehensive coverage in other manuals. Present national and state emphases on the preservation of our biodiversity indicate that a vascular flora for Georgia is not only appropriate but long overdue. The Flora will serve not only the academic research and teaching community, but also other professionals and organizations throughout the state. These would include, for example, divisions within the Department of Natural Resources, environmental consulting firms concerned with impact and preservation studies, and environmental design firms focusing on the use of native plants in the landscape. The Flora will also serve as an authoritative standardized text to which any interested layman may refer.
Basis for initiation of the project
The University of Georgia Herbarium in the Department of Botany currently houses nearly 227,000 dried and mounted plant specimens. Each year, 2,000 to 3,000 specimens are added to the collection. The major emphasis centers on plants collected in Georgia, but a good representation of plants from throughout the southeastern United States (as well as the remainder of the U.S.) is also present within the collection. Thus, an adequate sample of the vascular plants inhabiting Georgia is available through the Herbarium collection.
Distribution of the Vascular Flora of Georgia
The first step in the development of a Flora of Georgia is a revised edition of The Distribution of the Vascular Flora of Georgia, this time by Dr. David Giannasi and Patrick Sweeney, which is now in progress and supported by the Vice Presidents Office for Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia and by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. It will be completed and available to the public by January 1, 2001.
Guide to the Vascular Flora of Georgia
Currently a Guide to the Vascular Flora of Georgia, is proposed as Phase I of the Flora project. This includes construction of identification keys as well as habitat and distribution information for all native and naturalized vascular plant species. Identification keys are fundamentally similar to outlines where the identifying characters for plant species are arranged in order of descending importance. The use of keys provides the correct identity of an unknown plant by a process of elimination not unlike reading through a manual to identify a problem with an appliance. Keys for many Georgia plant species are already available from the recent partially overlapping floras of other states and will provide a foundation for the preparation of detailed keys including only the species found in Georgia. A Guide differs from an actual Flora in that detailed descriptions and illustrations of species are not included. The preparation of a Guide before a Manual of the Flora is prudent in that the identification keys can be "tested" for their accuracy and workability by many individuals, including students in classes at the University of Georgia, and field workers throughout the state. Further, plants collected in previously unknown locations and newly discovered plants can be added to the database.
Manual of the Vascular Flora of Georgia
With sufficient funding, the final step of the Flora is the production of an Illustrated Manual of the Vascular Flora of Georgia (Phase II of the project) which will include keys, detailed species descriptions, along with illustrations (in part by students of the Biological Illustration Program at UGA) and the distribution maps of the plant species from the previously completed Distribution of the Vascular Flora of Georgia.
The Herbarium of the University of Georgia is actively seeking support for this project. For further information on the Flora of Georgia Project and support program, please contact:
The Herbarium, Botany Department, UGA, Athens, GA 30602
About the Herbarium