The tropical plant field guide

For most people, it is hard work to identify tropical forest plants with a scientific name, especially out in the field, whether on the farm by the road-side or in the forest. There are so many species and, compared to European plants, relatively little is published that can be used to identify them in the tropics.

We hope with this web site to help at various levels with the identification of living plants, especially but not only in equatorial regions. We include guidance, literature and a growing number of images to aid field guide production. By promoting field guide production and thus a greater understanding of plant diversity in the tropics, we hope we are contributing to the long-term sustainability of rural livelihoods and bringing more immediate socio-economic benefits.

The Virtual Field Herbarium plant image gallery (VFH for short) is composed of images and linked data from (eco-)friendly researchers and artists. In effect, the VFH is a collaborative tool, with various methods for sifting through the collection, and should be useful in itself for identifying plants, at least in the regions where we have collaborators. Like all aspects of this site, it is still young and growing. Please let us know if you would like to share your images for this purpose.

A brief summary of highlights
  • Thousands of images of plants, especially tropical ones, with links to their creators or others responsible for deciding who can use them.
  • Most images are linked to herbarium specimens, so names used for these images are potentially verifiable in the herbarium by reference to the specimen. If you question any of our names, the links provided will put you in touch with the photographer or plant collector.
  • If you register and log in, you can make a simple field guide using a set of images you select. We hope this might help some users create field guides to small areas, e.g. for schools or local sale to tourists, and might encourage users to start to develop fuller field guides.
  • The specimen data, with linked species, genus and family information in some cases, should be useful for field guide writers.
  • We suggest some steps and other tips for producing various types of field guide.
  • Jargon botanical terms (in a glossary) are linked to images and text showing what these terms mean. This should help you choose terms and characteristics that might be useful in your field guide.
  • Links to the literature relevant to field guides and to the results of our trials on field guide format.
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The Virtual Field Herbarium
Create your own field guide
These pages are the output of The Forest Research Programme project R7367. This is a research project based in the Department of Plant Sciences, Oxford, funded by DFID / FRP. Our collaborators were: Ghana's Forest Service and Biodiversity Unit, Limbe Botanical and Zoological Gardens Cameroon, and Grenada Forestry Department.