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A New Homepage, Highlighting Our Articles

July 29th, 2020 by Alex Zorach

We have freshly redesigned our homepage! The new page features recently updated plant articles, ecoregion articles, and ID/comparison guides, and a table of contents to navigate them.
A screenshot of the new homepage.

The aim of the redesign is to highlight recent changes to the site, including newly published and updated material. The goal is both to make the material more accessible, and to show how actively the site is being developed and how much unique material can be found here.

Lately, the material has been updated frequently, sometimes daily and certainly weekly. If you check the homepage often, you will see just how much progress is being made.

Behind-The-Scenes Improvements

The changes to the homepage utilize some groundwork that has other benefits. One of them is improving the system for cropping images, which enables a snippet to be more easily included in material that is shared on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

A screenshot of the new image format as being displayed on Facebook when sharing a plant article.

Prior to these changes, some of the site's images would display gracefully when articles were shared, but others would be awkwardly cropped or shown at a low resolution. Now, articles have a consistent crop dimension which is optimal for sharing, and which is chosen manually to display nicely. All new articles will use the new system, and it is just a matter of a few days before all older articles are moved to the new system.

We hope that improving the shareability of our articles can help our educational material reach a broader audience through social media.

Please consider supporting us!

This site is currently supprted 100% by user donations, which help ensure that the site can continue to be developed. We currently have relatively few donors, so even small donations can make a big difference. Please read our FAQ if you have any questions about giving, or just go to donate on Liberapay. You can always find these links in our site's footer!

A False Recovery, But North Carolina's Ecoregions are Complete!

June 9th, 2020 by Alex Zorach

Unfortunately, shortly after my last post about recovery from COVID-19, I had a relapse, and my recovery from this turned out to be much slower and more irregular than the first time around. Initially, this relapse was scary and confusing because I had not ready any accounts of people with similar experiences. However, it is now clear that a certain portion of people have illnesses that drag on for weeks or even a few months, with recurring, sometimes bizarre symptoms.

There has now been some media coverage of people with experiences similar to mine, such as this article on people who have COVID-19 symptoms for months in The Guardian, and an article about patients experiencing relapses of COVID-19 symptoms in Vox.

I have still been working on the site off and on, but, as before, have been neglecting the social media presence and blog updates. I am finally feeling mostly better again, and I'm hoping that this time I will be able to get back to my usual level of work without any further setbacks.

I also want to highlight some of the work I did get done over the past couple months.

Some Excitement About North Carolina

Ecoregion articles are now finished for North Carolina and I have begun adding images for many of them. North Carolina is a fascinating state with respect to ecology and plant diversity. It contains the highest-elevation parts of the southern Appalachians, and thus is home to many northerly plant species that reach the southern limits of their range, such as the red spruce (Picea rubens) at the highest elevations, or yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) at slightly lower ones. These are in turn part of forest communities that in many ways resemble more northerly forest types.

Farther east, the state also has vast expanses of swamps, peatlands, flatwoods, and coastal wetlands and barrier islands, each of which supports its own unique plant communities. It is also geologically diverse, and the diversity of terrain and soil types further drives plant diversity.

You can explore the map here:
This clickable map can also be found on the page on North Carolina. We have similar maps for all lower 48 U.S. states, but the articles are only finished for the states in the northeast. Follow the link in the footer to see maps of other states.

We also published a page on beetleweed (Galax urceolata), an herbaceous plant that is most common in the southern Appalachians, that many people may be familiar with due to its widespread use in flower arrangements, a practice that can sometimes threaten wild populations of this plant.
Photo by Heidi Large, Public Domain, Source.

Enjoy, and hopefully, stay tuned for more active social media postings again!

We're Back After COVID-19 Setbacks

April 3rd, 2020 by Alex Zorach

You may have noticed an absence of blog and social media activity over the past several weeks.

A few weeks ago, I came down with a mysterious illness that I strongly suspect to be COVID-19. Although it was quite scary, I am recovering thoroughly. During this time, I also began coaching several of my friends who were also experiencing symptoms, some of them more serious cases than mine.

Between this and the additional stressors of the social isolation and changes to our society, I have put less time into working on bplant.org. However, I still did make some significant progress, I just have not been publishing updates on the results, because managing social media accounts can often be just as time-consuming as developing and maintaining the site itself. Rather than let the site's content suffer, I kept working on the site and scaled back my time put into social media.

I am feeling much better now and am back to having more time to work on the site. One good thing about the crisis we are in is that it doesn't affect my ability to work on the website at all, nor does it affect my ability to be out alone in nature working with plants, observing and photographing them in ways that synergize with my work on the site.
This photo shows a table mountain pine (Pinus pungens), a pine endemic to the Appalachians. This photo is located in the Southern Crystalline Ridges and Mountains ecoregion of the Blue Ridge. Photo © CK Kelly, CC BY 4.0, Source.

Update on Recent Progress

Some major progress over the past couple months includes completion of ecoregion articles for the following states:We also have added images to some of these articles, although many of them still need images. You can read about our search for ecoregion photos in our previous blog post. We've already begun work on Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

We also continue to add new plant articles. Some of the latest:These three articles are directly related to our completion of ecoregion articles in Michigan (where jack oak and northern white-cedar are key components of the forests) and Virginia and West Virginia (where table-mountain pine can be found in the Appalachians.) We have prioritized completing plant articles that are interlinked with our ecoregion articles.

And we have one new plant comparison guide:This is just a selection of highlights of the work we have completed in recent months. We also did a ton of expansion and improvement to existing articles.

Expect More Activity & Communication Again!

You can expect things to return to the normal activity level shortly!