Here’s a Great Resource for Learning More About Your Plants

Are you considering planting a new kind of forage in your pasture? Do you have trees or bushes that you’re trying to manage and you need to know more about them to be successful? Would you like to know what plants grow in your state? Well, here’s the website you need to answer all those questions and more!

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) PLANTS Database has all kinds of plant information to help with conservation planning and vegetation management. On the left-hand side of the page is a menu of all the different topics covered.

On the right-hand side of the page is another menu – one that might help you jump directly to your area of interest.

The Plant Guides are an especially quick way to add to your knowledge base. It includes information on over 1,000 plants, including grasses, legumes, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. The guides lead off with both common and scientific names, followed by a botanical description of the plant. The range of occurrence and zones within the range where the species occurs are described, along with other species that occur in the same area. A Uses section describes how the plant is used for conservation, covering topics like wildlife habitat, pollinator habitat, livestock grazing, landscape restoration, conservation practices, and ornamental applications. The Guides also describe how to establish and manage plantings. Ethnobotanical information may be included and covered in depth for culturally significant plants.  Other information includes threatened or endangered status, wetland status, environmental concerns, and named varieties and their availability.  For commercial seed growers or nursery operators there is information about production of seed or plants.

When you click on the Plant Guides link, the list of plants comes up sorted by scientific name. Since a lot of us are more familiar with common names, here’s how to sort the list by those so you can find your plant.

First click on the “Customize the list of Fact Sheets & Plant Guides” link just under the title bar:

When the sort page comes up, click on the “common name” button, and then on “display results.” The Fact Sheets & Plant Guides page will return sorted by common name. (If you like, you can narrow your search using the criteria in the boxes in section 1.

When your results come up, you’ll notice that you can choose between “Fact Sheets” and “Plant Guides.” Plant Guides provide more information. You can get the information as a Word document (doc) or as a PDF (pdf). (The NRCS National Plant Data Team and the NRCS Plant Materials Program staffs are in the process of converting all information to Plant Guides.)

How Can You Use This?

I use information on this site and in the Plant Guides to help me understand plants – how they grow, when they are most susceptible to damage from grazing, how they spread, and more. By understanding my plants I can adjust my grazing to either grow more of that plant, or if it’s a weed I’d like to get rid of, to graze it when it’s most vulnerable. I hope it helps you do the same!

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