Explore Virginia’s natural communities using the Flora of Virginia app


The Foundation of the Flora of Virginia Project (the Flora) has launched a new guide to the Natural Communities of Virginia with the Flora of the Virginia smart-phone app.

A screenshot from the Flora of Virginia app. This page details major plant groups. The heading says "Which group describes your plant? Tap to select." Below is a selection of groupings of plants, with titles like ferns, grass-like, wildflowers, etc. Each grouping has some example imags and key characteristics listed.
The Flora App helps users narrow down what plant they are looking at using classifications determined by vegetation ecologists. Photo from Google Play store.

"The Flora of Virginia app is an authoritative scientific reference you can carry in your pocket,” said Mason associate professor of biology Andrea Weeks, director of Mason’s Ted R. Bradley Herbarium. “Our newest version integrates the latest information about Virginia's naturally occurring ecological communities. I am excited by its potential to accelerate research, education, and outreach about the Commonwealth's flora. No other state in the U.S. has a more detailed comparable app."  

The classification system developed by Vegetation Ecologists with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage provides a framework to describe natural communities. It gives context to the importance of protecting certain habitats and species and will guide efforts to restore landscapes to functioning ecosystems that support native flora and fauna.

The guide:

  • Describes in detail the 80 Natural Community groups;
  • Includes over 1,000 new captioned photos;
  • Illustrates the diverse and unique habitats where native flora grow and why certain species are always found together;
  • Provides range maps detailing where these groups are most likely found; and,
  • Includes abbreviated lists of species frequently found in each community group.

“The integration of Natural Communities into the App was the Flora’s primary objective for 2023,” says Flora of Virginia Project Foundation board president Caitie Cyrus. “We could not have completed the work without the guidance of Natural Heritage, our longtime partners and collaborators.”

Weeks worked with Joey Thompson from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage on the project. The Foundation of the Flora of Virginia Project is a nonprofit organization that inspires conservation of Virginia’s native flora through education, outreach, and production of the Flora of Virginia, in print and electronic formats. Learn more about the foundation here.

The app is available for purchase: Flora App for iOS and Android. Learn more about Natural Heritage’s Natural Communities classification system.

This story originally appeared on the College of Science website.