Field photographs of plant species are crucial for research and conservation, but the lack of a centralized database makes them difficult to locate. We surveyed 25 online databases of field photographs and found that they harboured only about 53% of the approximately 125,000 vascular plant species of the Americas. These results reflect the urgent need for a centralized database that can both integrate and complete the photographic record of the world’s flora.
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We thank the thousands of photographers who have contributed photographs to the online resources surveyed in this paper, and the dozens of museums, universities, government agencies that maintain those resources. We thank R. Foster and T. Wachter for initiating the live plant photos and field guides projects at the Field Museum; the Field Museum IT and data management teams, especially S. Grant, K. Webbink, P. Herbst and J. Jones, for their work databasing and sharing the Museum’s field photographs; and N. Hensold for her heroic curation of their constantly evolving taxonomy. The following Field Museum volunteers carried out Google Image searches of individual species: M. Heisley, U. Major, S. Brangman and P. Hu. This publication received support from the Field Museum’s Grainger Bioinformatics Center. We thank the University of Basel, owner of the World Orchid Iconography database, and the Swiss Orchid Foundation, who facilitated its development. F.L.R.F. acknowledges a senior postdoctoral grant from FAPERJ (E-26/201.562/2018—process 236717). R.C.F. was supported by research grants from CNPQ (303420/2016-2) and FAPERJ (E-26/202.778/2018). E.H.S. acknowledges a postdoctoral grant from CAPES (PNPD/UFRB-88882.315208/2019-01).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Plants thanks Sabina Leonelli and Pamela Soltis for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Fig. 1 and title and captions for Tables 1–4.
The 25 online resources surveyed during this research and 13 other online resources consulted but not surveyed. For all columns, ‘species’ refers to vascular plant species of the Americas (North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean)2.
Species-by-resource matrix, indicating which vascular plant species of the Americas (North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean)2 are represented in each of the 25 online resources surveyed during this research. Species names are sorted first by the total number of resources containing that species, in descending order and then alphabetically.
Number of species found for each region of the Americas in 25 surveyed online resources of field photographs of plants and the proportion of regional floras found in each resource. Regions and region data are from Ulloa Ulloa et al.2. Resources are sorted by median number of species in each region, in descending order.
Number of species per family in each resource, proportion of VPA family diversity in each resource, and number and proportion of species per family not found in any resource. For all columns, ‘species’ refers to vascular plant species of the Americas (North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean)2.
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Pitman, N.C.A., Suwa, T., Ulloa Ulloa, C. et al. Identifying gaps in the photographic record of the vascular plant flora of the Americas. Nat. Plants 7, 1010–1014 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-021-00974-2