Illinois Plants went online in August 2015; however, the project is based on work that was started much earlier.
The Illinois Plant Information Network (ILPIN) was created by Louis Iverson , Dave Ketzner, and A. Prassad at the Illinois Natural History Survey and formed the backbone for information on the plants of Illinois used by Illinois Plants. ILPIN was updated throughout the 1990’s, but became out-of-date both in terms of its content and its data format in the early 2000’s. The site remained the key source of systematically compiled information on the plants of Illinois until the launch of Illinois Plants, and ILPIN can still be accessed directly via the US Forest Service http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/data/il/ilpin/.
The beginning of Illinois Plants
Louis Iverson provided the ILPIN database to Ian Pearse and Greg Spyreas at the Illinois Natural History Survey, who recovered the data into a modern format with the help of Phil Anders. The Illinois Natural History Survey provided initial support to create Illinois Plants, and that support was used to hire database / web programmers Aidan Epstein and Mai Greenwood whose exceptional work quickly transformed the project into a user-friendly website. Dan Nickrent from Southern Illinois University became involved in the project with the particular interest of providing high-quality photographs of the plants of Illinois served through his website PhytoImages.
At this time, the taxonomic information within the site was updated by Spyreas, Nickrent, and Pearse. Phil Anders and Brandon Flowers provided critical support for web and database tools that are integral to the site. Large databases of plant occurrence records were donated by the Illinois Dept. of Transportation botanical surveys, the Illinois Natural History, the Illinois Dept. Natural Resources, and these records formed the core of occurrence record maps generated by Illinois Plants. The Illinois Dept. of Transportation stepped up to provide key support for database and web programming in order to create the mapping tools. The project was now truly multi-institutional with key collaborators throughout Illinois. The first online version of the website was launched in August 2015.
The future of Illinois Plants
The Illinois Plants database and website are maintained by the Illinois Natural History Survey; however, the project is a collaboration between many institutions throughout Illinois. We want to expand this list. We are in contact with several institutions such as The Chicago Botanic Garden, The Morton Arboretum, Forest Preserves, and herbaria such as SIU and the Illinois State Museum to gather an even greater coverage of information on Illinois Plants. There are many more to come. The long-term viability of the website is solid based on web support from INHS, but the continued viability of the Illinois Plants resource itself requires the continued support of its many users. There will always be necessary edits to make to the site --updates, new records, and changes in how web content is displayed. All of this requires an active and vibrant community of users who value the site to the degree that they are willing to support it with their expertise, their data on Illinois Plants, their photographs, and their pocketbooks.