Authority – reference only to the botanist first describing the plant species

None –
Hairy – soft fuzz to long hairs
Prickly – hard or rough structures from small scales to large thorns
Small leaves – green leaves, usually smaller than basal ones
Runners – it may be difficult to decide if these grow from the root, stem or rhizome (underground stem), but all of these situations apply

Common Name
Input field if common name is known, otherwise information only due to the variability in such names used in different regions or countries.

Will be based on local experience in growing the North American (and eventually South American) alpine plant species in the Thunder Bay region (Hardiness Zone 3-4).

Includes outstanding characteristics of the plant, which did not make warrant to have their own category. For example square stem cross section is a characteristic of only a few plants.

Based on two letter codes for United States and the provinces of Canada. See the attached file.

Plant grouping, based on common botanical characteristics

Bilateral – flower can be divided by one line (axis of symmetry) into only two halves which are mirror image of each other (zygomorphic flower such as in orchids or irises)
Several axes – flower can be divided by two or more lines (axes of symmetry) into many mirror images (actinomorphic flower typical of most plants such as rose or tulip)

Interpretation of colour names is highly individual and subjective. One individual’s purple is violet, or even blue to another. For this reason, standard Pantone colour scales will be included in the photographs. For search purposes, the categories were left purposefully broad, leaving little margin of error in choosing the right colour category. The precise boundaries between red and orange; or cream and yellow may still be difficult to decide on.
White cream
Blue violet
Yellow orange
Red pink
Other – brown, green, un-pigmented (nearly translucent), etc.

Growth form classification is used by plant geographers to describe plants with similar form. As far as I was able to ascertain, exact definitions of growth forms are often lacking. For example the difference between a shrub and a subshrub (size?), or between a vine or a liana (again, presumably size). A simplified set of categories is used, which may have value in distinguishing plants one from another. (These terms are rarely used in taxonomy – the study of plant classification).
Cushion – a common form found in the alpine zone. It may be formed from a single root and very tightly branched stem, or from interconnected underground stems (rhizomes) giving rise to what appear to be individual plants packed tightly together. Green part of plant not taller than 4 cm, for example Silene acaulis. May form extensive mats or carpets
Clump – may arise by several means: several stems from a common root as in grass tussocks, or several plants growing closely together. May form extensive mats or carpets, of loose plants taller than 4cm – such as Cerastium arvense.
Rosette – tightly packed leaves around very short central stem, usually spirally arranged leaves close to the ground
Solitary – single stemmed (rarely two or three stems from base of the plant)
Shrub – woody plant, branching from the base. No distinction is made in size between shrub and sub-shrub
Tree – woody plant with one central stem, branching in various ways some distance above ground

GPS Location
The Geographical Positioning System coordinates of locations at which collections were made by authors of the database.

The best available general description of the habitat of the plant

Leaf size
Maximum size is given, leaves can vary in size from small, newly emerged ones to the maximum.

This is the only field in which technical terms are used – these are defined in pictures (LINK). The prefix “ob” is used to indicate that the narrow end of the leaf is close to the petiole. For example, cordate leaf will have the narrow tip away from the petiole, and the two lobes near the petiole. Obcordate leaf has a lobed tip and the narrow, pointed end is toward the petiole. For our database what matters is the overall shape of the leaf, therefore all heart-shaped cordate and (ob)cordate leaves are included in one category.

Flat – relatively rare situation when the part of the leaf farthest from the petiole is flat
Pointed – common situation – this could be a distinct point, or the leaf gradually tapering into one
Rounded – curved or lobed leaf tip

Straight – smooth edge
Toothed – sharp teeth, may be pointing forward or back, same or irregular size
Wavy – fine to broad waves (lobes), same or irregular size, may cause the leaf not to be flat

Smooth shiny – no obvious modifications of the surface
Prickly rough – covered with hard and pointed projections
Flaky bumpy rough – rough to the touch, or covered with flakes or uneven bumps
Hairy wooly to stiff – anywhere from short fuzz to long hairs, which can be quite stiff but not penetrating the skin
Waxy powdered to dotted – usually whitish sheen, but can be powder-like to larger dots of granules
Edge only modified – any of the above surface features in a localized area on the leaf blade, usually along the edge or near the base

Simple – leaf undivided, or may be deeply divided, but not all the way to the midrib (continuation of the petiole)
Palmate – leaf divided to the petiole into finger-like sections of a hand
Pinnate – leaf divided to the petiole and what would be a midrib of an undivided leaf (rachis), with ladder-like opposite leaflets
Fern-like – as pinnate, but each leaflet divided again

Alternate – Leaves are alternating on the stem, possibly in a spiral arrangement
Opposite – two leaves are opposite each other
Whorled – three or more leaves attached at one point, usually several of these whorls up the stem
Basal – leaves only at the ground level, usually in a rosette

Ovaries are the broader base of the female reproductive structures containing ovules (fertilized eggs). They later develop into the dry or fleshy fruit containing ovules maturing into seeds.
Superior ovary – petals and sepals attached below the ovary
Inferior ovary – petals and sepals attached above the ovary
Other – petals arise from the sides of the ovary, or from a cup-shaped structure which encloses (surrounds) the ovary, or ovary is entirely absent as in dioecious (having two sexes) male plant

0, 1, 2 – the coloured petals are missing, or fused into only one or two distinct structures
7, more or composite flower – flower with many petals or a composite flower made up of individual flowers such as a daisy or dandelion

None – leaf stalk is lacking or indistinct in that it is green and appears only as a narrow extension of the leaf blade
Short – shorter than 1cm
Long – longer than 1cm

Pictures We hope will become the most valuable component of the database, showing the plants in their native habitat, as well as in sufficient detail to allow final confirmation of the identity of the plant being investigated. The pictures in Adobe pdf format will contain relevant scales, Pantone colour standard, as well as reasonably detailed verbal description of the characteristics of the plant, as used in the botanical literature. High-resolution originals of digital photographs can be obtained from the authors for free for educational and scientific purposes.

None – means there is no stem bearing leaves – be careful not to confuse a stalk carrying ONLY A FLOWER, called peduncle, for a true stem, which carries leaves.
Herbaceous – means soft stem of herbs (which nevertheless contains tough strands of woody material as in celery)
Woody – made of tough wood
Fleshy – relatively soft, either easily bruised or containing a lot of moisture, as in succulents or cacti

Maximum reported size of the plant is given, keep in mind that average plants are more likely to be found. Because the unknown plant can be anywhere in size from a young seedling to the maximum possible under ideal growth conditions, this character is not used for identification.

Branched – self explanatory, the stem branches, even once
Unbranched – but several stems may arise from the base of the plant

Erect – stem growing upward at more than 45o angle
Spreading – stem spreading at an angle less than 45o. With alpines the ground can be nearly vertical in itself, therefore try to evaluate if the stem on level ground would be growing up closer to the surface
Creeping – along the surface of the soil
Climbing – attached to a supporting structure such as shrub, tree

0, 1, 2 - sepals are the green “leaves” at the base of a flower, they are rarely missing or as few as 1 or 2
7 or more in composite flowers these are scale like, and called “involucral bracts”
fused tubular – the sepals are fused into a cup or tube, which at the top may be split into leaf-like or sepal-like sections.

Styles (the extended portion of the female floral organs between the ovary and the sticky stigmata on which pollen lands) may be so reduced as to be absent (stigma directly on top of the ovary), or if present tends to be characteristic of each genus/species. If styles are fused at the base, but split toward the tip into two, three or more, they are considered to fall in the “2 or more” category.
2 or more

The male (pollen producing) stamens can be variously fused, but the total number is considered in the categories below. Sterile, and often distinct-looking “staminodes” are excluded from the count.
7 or more

This characteristic may not be readily visible without a magnifying glass, but parallel veins characterize a large group of monocotyledonous plants. Most dicotyledonous plants have branching (tree-like) vein pattern, with a few having the tips of the veins interconnected into a net pattern.
Parallel –
Branching –
Netted –