One organisation that has done a superb job of collecting and collating plant data is Plants for a Future. Ken Fern and the others at PFAF have made a hugely significant database of plants that, through a share alike commons license have opened to the community to use. This makes it possible for a project like Practical Plants to make a fork from PFAF, using their great work as a starting point to move in different directions.

In principle a wiki will always be the most powerful tool for people pooling collective knowledge, time and research. The story of wikipedia proves the principle. Open to contributors, we can build a better resource together with more information on plants, techniques, interactions and better facilities for search and use of the database than anyone or small group could individually. The need to make a community wiki is sufficient justification to embark on a project like Practical Plants, but there are a few other differences from PFAF that we have moved towards, and some different directions we are interested in exploring or emphasising. Practical Plants has the capacity to capture interactions between plants (how Apple trees do with tomato plants near them, for example), and it also contains the facility to build up a large collection of 'polycultures' or 'guilds' that keep information on good combinations of plants. We have the ambition to build a database that can be used anywhere around the globe, not just one that is geared primarily towards one country, region or zone (see the thread on building a global database). We are interested in moving towards more clarified data clarified data in terms of proof, scientific evidence and backing, particularly in regards to medicinal uses. What we would like to see is traditional uses of plants recognised, with scientific verification, or its lack thereof recognised in the database.

There are also many data fields that we have already added to our database and would like to add in the future. Additionally there are many more features that we would like to, and can add to Practical Plants in the future.

We are very grateful for the work that Ken Fern and his team have done, he has written an excellent book on many of the plants included in this database and in PFAF, and we are sure that the PFAF project will continue producing good things for the community. Practical Plants can and will move forward in different directions.

To read more please see the Community Forum thread on PFAF.