This help article is out of date! The plant form has changed since it was written and we are working on updating it.

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Editing Plants

Let's go through the plant form section by section. Each tabbed section holds different data about the plant that can be added or changed.

Description

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Image

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Botany

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Uses

There are three categories of uses: edible, material and medicinal. To add to any of these you use the 'add another' button and first type in the part of the plant that is used and then how it is used. The Part and Use fields both allow comma separated lists of values, so you can group related uses. You should only group items if they are related, otherwise create separate entries for each part use.

For example:

  • For Malus domestica (Apple) I might enter in the edible tab: Fruit > Fresh with a brief description explaining that the fruit can be eaten fresh, but also Fruit > Jam, Preserve, Jelly, Butter with an explanation of the types of preserves listed.
  • Or I might enter in the medicinal tab 'Leaves, Bark > Astringent, with details on the astringency of the bark and leaves.

It is very important to try and build up a plant-wide database that uses the same terms consistently. For example, if Apple had an entry for Fruit > Dried but Strawberry had an entry for Fruit > Dry then these two fruits would not come up on the same searches. For data, terms are more general than specific. For example, the Practical Plants' standard term Jam is preferable to anything like Seedy Jam and Alcohol is preferable to Cider. These more specific characteristics of a use can be explained well in the article. For the purposes of the database, it is best if all things that can be made into a jam like substance are labelled Fruit>Jam.

When setting up uses keep these points in mind:

  1. Pay attention to Practical Plants standard terms
  2. Use the auto-complete feature to guide you towards standard terms.
  3. Group items where the use or type are related

Functions

This section allows you to provide natural functions in three areas: wildlife shelter, wildlife foraging and design or natural functions. All three of these can have as many entries in the list as you like, just put a comma in between each entry. For example, a plant may be a Nitrogen fixer and an excellent hedge plant as well as a good windbreak. In this case type 'Nitrogen fixer, hedge, windbreak'. The points made above in the 'Uses' section about using the same standards throughout the practical plants database applies here too. If one type of Alder is listed as 'Nitrogen fixer' and another as 'fixes nitrogen' they will not come up in the same searches. As above pay close attention to Practical Plants standard categories and use the auto-finish feature to guide you towards these standard uses. If it seems like you are making a new entry, like 'fixes nitrogen' that did not exist before then stop, and see if there is another one that fits the function.

If you would like to discuss any of the standardly used functions feel free to flip over to the discussion side of this page to initiate some comments.

Environmental Conditions

[screen shot] This section is important information for plant cultivation. We have tried to build a database that contains useful facts that can be used anywhere around the world. For this reason we have not included fields like 'flowers in January', or other climate and geographic specific bits of data. As we build this database together we can improve, not only on the quality of the data in these fields, but also by adding to the fields that we have now. If you would like to input on these issues then please flip over to the discussion side of this page.

[Definition of shade tolerance]. USDA Hardiness zone and AHS Heat Zones are useful because they help a plant cultivator to decide how well a plant will work in their climate. When selecting Soil Water retention it is important to keep in mind that a plant that likes well-drained soil may very well like moist soil too and have moderate or high water requirements. These fields, used together, help build up a profile of the plant's needs and preferences. More nuanced description can be explained the plant's article.

Ecosystems

[screen shot] Every plant lives in a niche in whatever eco-system it finds itself in. Some plants, like tall trees that don't take well to pruning, will only ever be found in one sphere of an eco-system. Such trees will always be a part of the canopy level of an eco-system. Other plants can sometimes take to the canopy or stay lower down in the shrub layer.

Forest Gardening often refers to these eco-system niches as layers. When designing a forest garden space can be maximised by utilising each layer of an eco-system: Canopy, shrub, climber and ground layer.

Annuals can be ground layer (onions), shrubs (tomato bushes) and climbers (vine tomatos). Ground layer as an eco-system niche is not necessarily an indication that the plant performs well as ground cover function.

Interactions

[screen shot] The interactions data tab is a way to tag other plants that this plant works particularly well or poorly with. You can designate whether it is a positive or negative interaction and the reason. As with Uses and Functions, it is very important to pay attention to database wide standards here to make the database search facilities more efficient.

Plant Life

All plants should fit into the three life cycle options of annual, biennial and perennial. If perennial has been selected then you can go on to select whether it is a herbaceous perennial or a woody plant, if woody then you are further able to select if it is deciduous or evergreen.

The growth rate choices of slow, moderate or vigorous are, necessarily, relative to the type of plant. A tree will be vigorous relative to other trees and so on and so forth.

Propagation

As many plants can, technically, be propagated in many different ways but most definitely do better with some techniques than others, what to fill in on this section requires an element of subjective judgement. It is generally preferable to include more methods in data and then explain in the article which ones work best with this plant.

Around three months is considered to be an intermediate dormancy: much more is deep-seated and much less is shallow.

Article

There is a Practical Plants standard template for plant articles. To keep plant articles similar, formatically, it is best to keep to the outline in the template. That way, when readers are looking for a certain piece of information the article is always familiar to them. Practical Plants is powered by MediaWiki, the same software that Wikipedia uses. It may also be helpful to have a look at the general formatting guide for MediaWiki.