A trick I have used extensively in the past while undertaking plant ID surveys might also be useful to iNatters looking for clues as to what an unknown plant might be in a natural area.
I am talking about ecosystem mapping layers which provide a description of what vegetation can be expected in natural areas where you might be.
I found it especially good for identifying native grasses which I admit can be a struggle for me. Having a list of possible contenders at a particular site is a good start point.
The system I mainly use is the one specific to my home state, Queensland Australia. I have provided links and basic instructions below that anyone can use to access this database free of charge.
The problem with these types of information systems is that you have to know where to find them and how access them. This is often complex and not always presented in a logical order.
I know that the US and Canada have extensive ecosystem mapping layers at both state and federal levels, and I am sure that many other parts of the world also have similar systems.
I invite any of you out there who has the knowledge of how to use these systems to post some links and instructions as a service to fellow iNatters.
Accessing Qld Regional Ecosystem Mapping and RE descriptions
This is a Google Earth based system.
Once you open the program select “Search” to indicate the area your are interested in You can use street address, towns, co-ordinates and some other criteria to indicate location.
To find the ecosystem description at that spot, select “Layers” from the column on the left then “Add Layers”
Biota (Flora & Fauna)>Regional ecosystem mapping>Regional ecosystem (RE) mapping
This will bring up a map of various colours. Also the map will show regional ecosystem types by a three number code e.g 11.3.3 sometimes more than one regional ecosystem might be be possible at a location and both will be shown e.g 11.3.3/11.4.9. You should be able to work from your field observations which one you are in.
To access the Regional Ecosystem descriptions, go to this site;
Use the search function on the right to type in the Regional Ecosystem Code at the location you are interested in to bring up a species list and other information.