The University of Washington Herbarium at the Burke Museum is producing a new reference manual for Pacific Northwest Vascular Plants, based on the authoritative Flora of the Pacific Northwest published in 1973 by C. Leo Hitchcock and Arthur Cronquist.
The original, 730-page, single volume book was designed by the authors to be a portable plant identification manual for professional and amateur botanists. Even today it remains a singular piece of scholarship and a model for how to produce a flora. The new Flora will maintain the original's familiar layout, styles, and illustrated keys.
Neither a region’s flora nor the science of vascular plant taxonomy is static in their nature. In the 40 years since publication of Flora of the Pacific Northwest significant changes have occurred to the region’s flora (discovery of new species, arrival of additional non-native species) and to the classification and naming of the taxa covered in that volume. We estimate:
- 28% net increase in the number of species and infraspecies;
- 40% of species and infraspecies names will require nomenclatural changes;
- 42% or more of the generic keys must be substantially modified.
The Flora of the Pacific Northwest remains a vital resource for academic researchers, federal and state agency botanists, land managers, undergraduate and graduate students, and amateur botany enthusiasts. At the time of publication, users of the Flora could arrive at a currently accepted name for nearly all taxa within the region when using the keys provided. Today those same keys would achieve a similar result for only 47% of the region's taxa. Users must increasingly consult other state/province and continental-scale floras. Developing models predicting distribution changes in response to climate change, determining the correct identification of a rare species in a national park, exploring possible topics for taxonomic research, describing new species, or learning about the wildflowers where one recreates or lives all require a contemporary and comprehensive flora. The needs for a new flora are numerous.
We estimate that completion of a new Flora of the Pacific Northwest manuscript will require three to five years, with a possible completion date of Fall 2016. We have already begun developing workflows, digitizing content from the 1973 Flora, and writing updated treatments and keys.
Total project costs are estimated at $300,000. All of this funding must be raised from external sources. Project expenses include staff positions devoted to revising keys, acquisition of illustrations, and publishing costs.