About bplant.org

bplant.org is a plant website whose goal is to mobilize people to document, preserve, protect, and restore plant biodiversity, and through this, insect and other biodiversity as well. bplant.org aims to achieve these goals through collecting and presenting information on plant distribution and ecology, educating people on plant identification, and helping people make choices that preserve local native plant populations.

We are beginning with a focus on plants of the mid-Atlantic US, with a goal to eventually expand into all of North America, and perhaps eventually global coverage.

What's in the name?

We chose the name bplant.org because it was a short, simple domain that was available. "b" stands for botanical or botany, and can be read as "bee", a powerful symbol of the plant-insect relationships that are critical in most ecosystems. Lastly, "b" can be read as "be", as in "be the change you wish to see in the world", which reflects how bplant.org is about protecting biodiversity through changing how people think, thus changing our behavior in the world so that we protect, rather than destroy, the biodiversity around us.

How is this website different from existing plant databases and citizen science projects?

A short answer is a focus on ecology, a dynamic user interface, and emphasis on rigorous plant ID.

bplant.org overlaps a bit with a number of existing websites. However, we look to fill a vacant niche. Our goal is not to compete with existing websites, but rather, to find a unique space into which we can fit, focusing on the things we most have to offer, and then to synergize and work together with existing projects and websites. We want to link liberally to, and encourage others to contribute to and support, all of the best examples of such sites.

An Emphasis on Restraint and Rigorous ID

We are often compared with iNaturalist, a citizen science project for identifying and reporting all types of living organisms. We differ from iNaturalist in that we focus exclusively on plants, and that we have more researched, curated content like articles. We also have a different philosophy of design, using a single, mobile-responsive website instead of having separate smartphone apps. Lastly, we discourage casual identification and "guessing", instead cultivating a more restrained approach to plant ID in which people aren't afraid to say "I don't know." or "I'm not sure." And we want to provide people with the tools to ID plants more rigorously, including both through written descriptions, and photos illustrating key aspects of identification. We do not want to compete with iNaturalist in its use of crowd-sourced ID and AI-based identification.

A Focus on Ecology

There are abundant websites with articles on individual plant species, including both those that focus on horticulture, and others focusing on wild plants. We seek to differentiate ourselves from existing websites and references through a greater focus on ecology, including a plant's habitat, life cycle, and faunal associations. We also want to bridge the gap between the horticultural sphere and the wild, educating people on the ways gardening and landscaping plants interact with wild plant populations, and tracking this through our reporting of observations.

We also are bringing the concept of ecoregions to the forefront, and using ecoregions rather than political boundaries to generate range maps and plant distribution lists.

A Dynamic Approach To Web Design

A lot of websites are developed in a traditional development model that involves a lot of up-front development, and then the website remains more-or-less fixed for years. The advent of smartphone apps has also taken resources away from web development, making it less efficient to maintain interactive databases becase of the need to maintain three or more separate platforms independently. There are also a lot of fairly "flat" databases of articles that lack interactive features typical of most contemporary social media sites. We hope to embrace a dynamic, rapid development model in which we modify the site incrementally, adapting it to meet the community's needs.

Who we are

Profile pic

Alex Zorach is the current mastermind behind the site. Alex has a B.A. in Mathematics from Oberlin (2002), an M.S. in Applied Math from U. Delaware (2007), and an M.A. in Statistics from Yale (2008), and prior to grad school, worked in operations research and information technology. Alex has worked in the design and administration of interactive websites from 2009 onward, as founder and editor of RateTea, a social review site for tea drinkers, as well as maintaining more esoteric sites such as 31et.com. Alex has also worked since 2009 with invasive plant control, native plant gardening, and ecological restoration, initially as a hobby, but moving into more systematic work starting in 2016.

Alex contributes a unique mix of database, web programming, and system administration skills, combined with knowledge of plants and ecology in the mid-Atlantic area, and a holistic vision for what the site is to become.

Credits

Thank you to Carolyn Blaylock and Ali Ceretto for helping get this project off the ground. Carolyn Blaylock independently had a vision of a similar website, and she and Ali Ceretto were both instrumental in brainstorming ideas and meeting regularly for some time to get this project going.