When trying to identify plants, land owners and managers in Texas and Oklahoma have come to rely on the Noble Foundation’s online Plant Image Gallery at http://www.noble.org/imagegallery. In operation since 1997, the gallery is the most-viewed section on Noble’s Web site.
It is divided into sections on grasses and grass-like plants; forbs; and trees, shrubs and woody vines. Each section contains an index of common names, scientific names and family. Multiple full-color photographs of each entry enhance a user’s ability to correctly identify the plant in question.
Due to requests from gallery users, Noble recently upgraded the search capabilities of the site to make plant identification simpler. The “Image Gallery Search Engine” is a new tool that allows users to choose criteria about an unknown plant from dropdown menus and then run a search for potential matches.
“It can very time consuming to browse the gallery if you have no idea what you are looking for,” says Chuck Coffey, a pasture and range specialist at Noble and one of the co-creators of the site. “The user will now be able to take a plant to the computer and work through the search engine in an attempt to identify it.”
The new search engine is enhanced with pictorial keys for menu items such as leaf structure and fruit type, letting users see drawings and definitions of the characteristics and choose the right one for the plant they want to identify, Coffey says.
Currently, the “Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines” search engine is fully functional. Search engines for the “Forbs” and “Grasses and Grasslike Plants” are available but will be enhanced in the coming months.
Coffey stresses that the closer users are to southern Oklahoma and North Texas, the greater the likelihood of them finding plants in Noble’s Plant Image Gallery that are common to their region.