logo Calflora Observation Download Help
Fields in Alpha Order

The Observation Download Application provides a way to download a set of plant observations from the the Calflora online database in a form that is readily assimilable by another database or spreadsheet.

Searching and Dowloading

    Enter some selection criteria (for instance, County = "Del Norte" and Plant Status = "non-native"), and press the Search button. The first 750 records that match the criteria will appear in a table at the bottom of the page. If more than 750 records match, only the first 750 will be displayed, and to see all matching records, you will need to download the result set. To download, choose an Output Format other than "Table" (for instance, "CSV" to go into Excel, or "Tab delimited"), and press the Download File button.

    To see the results in Google Earth, do a search, choose "KML" as the value of Output Format, and press the Download File button.

    Lines and Polygons: Most records include a point location. Some records also have an associated line or polygon.

    To search for records that only have a point, and not a line or a polygon, set Geometry to point.

    To search for records that have a line, set Geometry to line.

    To search for records that have a polygon, set Geometry to polygon.

    To search for all records, set Geometry to any.

    To download matching records as a point shapefile, set Output Format to Shapefile: point. To download matching records as a polygon shapefile, set Output Format to Shapefile: polygon, and similarly to get a line shapefile.

    Shapefiles suffer from the limitation that an attribute name cannot be longer than ten characters. When you extract a shapefile with this application, attribute names are deliberately shortened, The meaning of the shortened names is explained in this Data Dictionary.

    It is possible to download a GeoJSON file containg a mix of feature types; in other words, points lines and polygons. To get records including any available geometries in the form of GeoJSON, set Geometry to any and Output Format to GeoJSON. However, GIS products like Quantum GIS do not really accept GeoJSON files containing heterogenus feature types; if the file contains multiple feature types, QGIS will ask which one you want to load.

    Geometry is not included in the various flat file formats (CSV).

    If you are looking for a specific plant, note that the Scientific Name and Common Name fields are typeahead enabled -- type in part of the name, and then choose the exact name from a drop down list. If you choose a full scientific name, the search will also look for synonyms of that name. If you choose just a genus name, the search will not look for synonyms, but instead look for all scientific names that begin with that genus.

    There is a maximum of 150K records per download. If you need more than this, try chopping the state up into regions by latitude.


    You can download the data through various views (column sets). Use the Column Set selector above the results table to choose a predefined view, and/or use customize to modify a predefined view.

    Current predefined views include:

    Basic Data
    Only core data fields.

    Weed Data
    Core fields plus weed specific fields.

    Weed Data Export
    A short list of fields including Management Status.


Suggested Citation

Calflora: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation.
[web application]. 2019. Berkeley, California: The Calflora Database [a non-profit organization].
Available: http://www.calflora.org/ (Accessed: Jun 13, 2019).

Hints for Using the Application
  • Generating a shapefile on the server requires a lot of server resources. If you set Output Format to Shapefile: ..., and the results include a large number of records, the download may fail. If this happens, choose a different Output Format, and convert the results to a shapefile on your own computer after the download. If you need to download polygons or lines, try downloading as GeoJSON, and use Quantum GIS to do the conversion.

  • If the results you are getting are too dense (too many points), you can impose a grid on the results to thin them out. If you set Grid Cell Size to "30 arc seconds", the results will contain at most one record per grid cell, where the side of a grid cell is 1/120 of a degree.

  • It is not possible to get unpublished records from this application, for security reasons. Please contact support if you need to download unpublished records.

Fields in Alphabetical Order

Accuracy: Radius
When GPS devices are used to make observations, the device typically produces an error radius interpreted as the accuracy of the device at the moment the observation was made. The error radius value from the device is stored in this field, but may be modified later.

Accuracy: Square Meters
An estimate of the accuracy of the location coordinates, expressed as an area in square meters. For instance, if the location accuracy is 100 square meters, then the idea is that the real location of the plant is somewhere within that 100 square meter area.

If a record coming in from a GPS device has a error radius value in meters, then this field is set to the area of the implied circle.

Calflora's plant identification number.
For Vaccinium ovatum the calrecnum is 8200.

This field is used by contributors to make sets of records, at the discretion of the contributor.. For instance, sometimes observation records are included in a plant survey -- in this case, the Collection field for each observation will contain the survey ID.

Anything of interest about the plant or site.

Common Name
The common name of the plant observed.

Full County name e.g. Riverside.

Distribution Code
The distribution of the plant across the landscape.

If you choose this field, the Distribution Code will be included in results.

1Single Plant
TSingle Patch
2Scattered Plants
MDense Monoculture
PScattered Dense Patches


If you choose this field, the Distribution Value (from the table above) will be included in results.

If there is a shape (line or polygon) associated with a record, the value of this field will be the ID# of the shape. If there is just a point location acssociated with a record (no shape), the value of this field will be 'P' (point).

To download the entire record including the shape in the form of GeoJSON, set the Output Format to "GeoJSON" and include the geometry field in the output Column Set.

Gross Area Count
Gross Area: The area of ground covered by the patch, if you drew an imaginary line around the outer boundary of the patch.

The number of units e.g. 15.

Gross Area Units

Square Feet
Square Meters

Gross Area Count and Gross Area Units written together e.g.
15 Square Meters.

The primary habitat type where the plant is growing.

  • Forest: Tree-dominated, generally with a closed canopy (e.g., redwood forest, eucalyptus grove)
  • Open Woodland: Tree-dominated, but with open areas between the trees (e.g., oak woodland)
  • Scrub/Shrubland: Shrub-dominated, with few or no trees (e.g., coastal scrub, chaparral)
  • Grassland / Open Field: Grass-dominated, with few to no shrubs or trees
  • Stream bank / bed: The banks or dried bed of a stream, creek or river
  • Wetland: Herbaceous-plant-dominated, with standing water at least part of the year and wetland indicator plants (e.g., cattails, rushes, pickleweed marsh, vernal pool)
  • Open Water: Pond, lake, river, estuary, etc.
  • Beach / Dune: Generally some open sand, or there would be if not infested with iceplant or European beachgrass
  • Planted (Lawn, crop, etc.): An area purposely planted for agricultural, recreational or ornamental use.

Calflora record identifier.

Infested Area Count
Infested Area: The area of ground covered by the patch if there were no spaces between the plants.

The number of units e.g. 15.

Infested Area Units

Square Feet
Square Meters

Infested Area Count and Infested Area Units written together e.g.
15 Square Meters.

Latitude, Longitude
The center of the patch, expressed in decimal latitude and longitude, NAD83 datum (WGS84).

Location Description
A brief description of where the plant is.

Location Quality
high, medium, or low.
See also On Location Quality.

Management Status

    searched for but not found
    under management / treatment

National Ownership
The land owner, manager, or steward.
OTH Other / Unknown
PVLT Private Land Trust
PVLA Private Landowner
PBLA Public Land
CGOV City or County Government
STAT State Government
USOT U.S. Government:
BLM * Bureau of Land Management
DOD * Department of Defense
NPS * National Park Service
USFS * USDA Forest Service


Observation Date
Date the plant was observed. Dates are stored in the database in the form YYYY-MM-DD; for example, 2019-12-31.

The person(s) who observed the plant.

Percent Cover

    0 - 1trace
    1 - 5
    5 - 25
    25 - 50
    50 - 75
    75 - 95
    95 - 100

Same as Percent Cover but includes a percent sign at the end of the value: 25 - 50%.

Phenology Code
Phenology: The life stage of the plant(s) at time of observation.

If you choose this field, the Phenology Code will be included in the results.

S Seedling / rosette Young, non-reproductive growth
B Bolting When the flowering stalk begins to shoot up in plants with a basal rosette of leaves (thistles or mustards, for example)
F Flowering In bud or flower
R Fruiting Setting seed or fruit
R Sapling A young tree
D Dead / skeleton Dried/dead plant or dormant perennial
L Leafing out Producing new leaves (for deciduous perennial plants)
M Mature A perennial plant NOT in one of the above stages
M Vegetative same as Mature


If you choose this field, the Phenology Value (from the table above) will be included in the results.

The organization(s) responsible for the record. This might include both the organization that paid for the survey and the organization that did the field work. For instance

    SFPUC; Nomad Ecology

The scientific name of the plant observed, without authors and with only the genus capitalized. For instance

    Vaccinium ovatum