Online taxonomic keys can potentially serve as
superior identification tools over printed field guides and technical
manuals because they offer the possibility of flexible design, better
graphics and enhanced search capabilities. For the past five
years, an online dichotomous key for the plants from the Kirby Park
Natural Area (KPNA) in Wilkes-Barre, PA has been developed.
Building on the efforts of previous teams, we have developed an online
polyclave key for over 100 flowering plants indigenous to the KPNA. The
key was created using a mySQL database with PHP scripts written to
facilitate the data access. The key involves three parts.
The first is a character entry system that creates a profile for the
plant using drop-down menus linked to text and photos. In the
second, the series of characters in the profile are applied against the
database to search for species that fit the profile. The third is
a system for displaying the plants that fit the profile back to the
user. The key has been posted to the Wilkes University website at
It is being field-tested and will be on display for conference
attendees to review.