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Using the simple search function

Your first point of entry is the search button. This will take you to a "simple search" screen where you can type in the botanical name, common name, cultivar epithet or marketing name of a plant you want to look up, or the name of a plant family that you might be interested in.

Searching botanical names

The Burnley Plant Guide uses predictive text for botanical names. When you begin to type a botanical name, the program will present a list of all the plants in the guide that begin with those letters. You can then scroll down to, and select, the plant of interest. To find all the members of a genus, e.g. Acacia, type the letters "aca", and select "Acacia" from the drop down menu. Then click "Find plants" or hit the "Enter" button on your keypad. This will take you to a list view of all the acacias in the database, but will also find Robinia pseudoacacia and Vachellia karroo. Robinia pseudoacacia will be found because acacia forms part of its botanical name. Vachellia karroo is listed because it was once called Acacia karroo and this earlier name is shown as an "Other name" on the individual plant datasheet (accessible by clicking on the pictorial thumbnail). Similarly, if you want to find all the roses in the database, when you select "Rosa" from the drop down menu, you will find all the roses but you will also many find plants that have rosa within their family, common, other or cultivar names.

Searching plant names unknown or forgotten

Use the predictive text to help you. You may be able to remember the first part of the botanical name, i.e. the first part of the genus name or you might be able to remember the specific epithet (the second part of the botanical name) or part of its common name, or the family to which it belongs. If none of this works, you can use the advanced search function (see below) to use plant habit and features to help you, e.g. shrub with pink flowers in July.

Searching common names

Type in the common name you know, and the program will find any plant that has that common name but remember that plants may have more than one common name, the same common name may apply to more than one plant, and some plants have no common name.

Searching cultivar epithets

Cultivar epithets are part of a full botanical name such as Acacia leprosa 'Scarlet Blaze'. Cultivar epithets are sometimes used as "short cuts" in common speech and they might be the only part of a particular plant's name that people can remember. Type in the cultivar epithet, then click the "find plants" button to generate a list, icon or table view. In this case, there is only one plant in the database that has the cultivar epithet 'Scarlet Blaze'. However, if you search for "Alba" you will find many plants that have a white form so that the epithet "Alba" is part of their full botanical name, e.g. Wisteria floribunda 'Alba'.

Searching family names

Search for members of a plant family by typing in the family name. As you start typing, a drop down list will appear. You can keep typing or scroll down and select your plant family from the drop down list.

Using the advanced search function

  • Start by using the search button and then select "Switch to advanced mode" by clicking the link.
  • This will take you to "Advanced Search" where you can search for an individual plant by its botanical name (including by cultivar epithet) or common name as in the simple search function.  Additionally, you can search for a group of plants based on numerous categories or their uses and/or attributes. Use the family drop down menu if you want to search a particular plant family.
  • Type a keyword in "description" if you want to generate a list of plants that might have this word somewhere in the general information about them.
  • Use categories such as type, climate, cultivation ease, environmental tolerances etc., singly or in combination to generate a list of plants to meet your needs.
  • Hover your cursor over the name of each category for a quick definition and click on the "Read more" link for further information about each category.

Selecting plants efficiently

When selecting plants, the more categories you enter, the fewer the plants you will find. Sometimes a search will find no plants that meet your criteria. It is most efficient to start by entering only the most important categories first, and then narrowing the search in order of priority, by refining your search. If you have a difficult planting site, it is a good idea to select for environmental tolerances first, as there is no point in considering plants that won't grow! For example, if you are looking for drought tolerant trees below a certain height, select that group first (check "tree", the height that you don't want it to exceed, "very good" drought tolerance, then add other priorities such as flower colour.

Identifying plants with the Burnley Plant Guide

The Burnley Plant Guide is not designed for plant identification, and so there is no "plant key" function. But you may be able to use it to find out what a particular plant is, using the Advanced Search function. For example, you have seen a perennial herb with red flowers in December. Select "type: perennial herb", "flower colour: red" and "flowering month: December". Click on "Find Plants" and scroll through the list (icon view is best if you have a lot of plants in your list) to see if your plant is there. If you have noticed something unusual about your plant, say perhaps that the leaf arrangement is decussate; you can refine your search by adding the word "decussate" in "description". This will generate a list of two plants, a Penstemon and a Crassula. Then you may be able to say "Eureka, I've found it!"

Viewing and printing plant details

Simply click on the pictorial thumbnail of your plant of interest for morphological descriptions, taxonomic information, cultural and maintenance advice and other details about your chosen plant. You can obtain a quick definition of the categories on the datasheet by hovering your cursor over the category heading (e.g. "drought") and can click on the "Read more" link for further information. You can generate a printable datasheet by clicking the "Printable Datasheet" button below the Basic plant details at the top right of the page.

Using the "My Plant Lists" function

You can save your plant datasheets into folders within "My Plant Lists" by clicking the "Add/Remove" button located under the scrolling images on your individual plant datasheets or from your search results page. Once your datasheets are contained within "My Plant Lists" you can make notes for each of your folders and/or for each of the plants you have saved.

Using the glossary

Use the glossary to check an unfamiliar botanical term.


Botanical name

This is the scientific name of a plant. It always has two parts (a binomial): the name of the genus to which it belongs and the "specific epithet" which is a descriptor that distinguishes this particular species from other species in the same genus.

Common name

This is a name that is widely used in place of a botanical name. Common names are important for people who are not familiar with botanical names. Thus the Scarlet Oak to most lay people is Quercus coccinea to horticulturists, botanists and the like.

Family name

Plant families are named after one genus in the family, e.g. the Myrtaceae (or the Myrtle family) that takes its name from the genus Myrtus. You will notice that family names always start with an upper case letter and always end in the letters "aceae".

Cultivar epithets

Cultivars, or cultivated varieties, are plants that have been bred or selected for use in cultivation. Cultivar epithets are part of the scientific or botanical name of a plant in that they must at least be associated with the plant's generic name but often the species epithet is retained as well. For example, Correa 'Dusky Bells' which has the genus name followed by the cultivar epithet only and Acacia leprosa 'Scarlet Blaze' which has the genus name, followed by the specific epithet, followed by the cultivar epithet.

Marketing names

Marketing names are names that are not true botanical names and include the names of new plant varieties protected under "Plant Breeders Rights (PBR)" and plant names protected by trademarks. Because new plant varieties appear on the market all the time, it is very hard to keep up to date with these, try as we may. However, the most important thing to note is that a marketing name may be the most obvious name on the label of a plant, so it is only by looking at the back of the label that the true botanical name of the plant may be found.