Synthesis of the North American Flora

Click here to download a 1 mb demonstration version for Windows!

Although the Synthesis is still available, for a description of BONAP's current work, view the Home Page.

Overview of the Synthesis
Over the past 30 years, Dr. John Kartesz, Director of the Biota of North America Program (BONAP) of the North Carolina Botanical Garden has produced a vast database for the vascular plants of North America north of Mexico. The work now serves as an international standard for many federal government agencies, universities, colleges, and private conservation groups, including The Nature Conservancy. It provides the only comprehensive source for nomenclature and taxonomy for all known native and naturalized vascular plants and their associated synonyms (nearly 75,000 names), as well as the phytogeography, morphology and other data for the approximately 28,000 unique plant types.

The Synthesis software was written by Dr. Christopher Meacham, plant taxonomist and software specialist at the Jepson Herbarium, University of California at Berkeley. The program is designed for IBM-compatible computers running Windows 3.1, 95, 98, NT, or 2000 operating systems, with at least 25 MB of available hard-disk space, a Pentium or faster processor, and minimally 32 MB of RAM. The program can also be used on Macintosh computers running Virtual PC software, although it is recommended that the computer have components that are comparable to or better than those indicated above.

This program enables plant taxonomists, horticulturists, nurserymen, foresters, wildlife managers, ecologists, and other plant enthusiasts to produce species checklists, distribution summaries, and species assessments for morphology, rarity, endemism, nativity, and other biological attributes. Since the program is entirely mouse driven, users no longer need to type scientific names in order to view distributional or biological attribute data, or to produce checklists anywhere within North America, from private wood lots to state or regional floras. This program consists of three integrated components: the Lexicon, Atlas, and Biological Attributes.

The Lexicon provides the underlying nomenclature and taxonomy used within Dr. Kartesz’s 1994 Timber Press publication A Synonymized Checklist of the Vascular Flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland, including current updates. Each name has undergone rigorous scrutiny in both orthography and authorship to assure scientific correctness and consistency with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. The Lexicon enables the user to show immediate relationships between taxa at various ranks, i.e. families, genera, species, subspecies, and varieties, and to produce listings of all plant names in current use (synonyms and/or accepted names). Synonymized checklists can be displayed and printed for any plant group. Author citations for all scientific names, along with common names for each fully accepted species can also be included. The Synthesis permits the transfer of scientific names (in italics!) directly into Microsoft Word or WordPerfect documents by simply clicking on the desired name. By using the Lexicon as a standard reference tool, countless hours of tedious editorial time can be saved by those needing to include accurate scientific names within manuscripts or species checklists.

The Atlas displays distribution maps for each of the more than 28,000 accepted taxa, representing nearly a quarter of a million state or equivalent level records. The maps can be printed in black and white or color, or saved as bitmap images. The Atlas permits individual state or equivalent level summaries of taxa to be displayed for each of the 70 geographic regions. Rare, state level noxious, extirpated/ historical occurrences, eradicated, extinct, and erroneous reports are indicated for various taxa by different colors. Complex search capabilities are also possible, including boolean operations designed to compare and contrast taxa common to individual states, groups of states, or even groups of geographic regions. Bibliographic and/or repository vouchering details documenting each of the 240,000 state or equivalent level records can be displayed by simply running the cursor over that particular geographic area. Zoom capabilities embedded within the mapping system will permit county level and even site-specific data to be added in the future.

The Biological Attributes provide fully populated summaries for 174 biological fields, including morphological and other specialized data, for all accepted taxa. These biological attributes were selected because of their botanical usefulness or interest to a broad audience and/or because of their national or international significance. Examples of these attributes include: state and national level rarity and endemism, nativity, weediness, habit (tree, shrub, vine, etc.), habitat, trophic level, duration, etc. Numerous other data fields that might be of interest to the horticultural community and gardeners, such economically important plants and herbs of commerce, plants reported to have medicinal uses, major range plants, plants reported to be toxic or edible (including the part of the plant that has been reported to be edible), drink plants, spice plants, lumber and timber sources, ornamental grasses, perfume plants, alpine species, along with plants that attract butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds, are included. Boolean operations are also incorporated within the Biological Attributes, enabling comparisons of various attributes to be made in concert with state level distributions.