How to Search the Rare Plant Inventory

By Molly Wiebush

California flora is unique in its diversity and richness. Jepson Flora describes over 6,500 native plant taxa, including over 1,300 natives that are only found in California! There are many reasons for this diversity, including California’s unique geology. Over one-third of California’s flora is considered rare, and 2,414 plant taxa and 15 lichens are currently ranked in the Rare Plant Inventory (RPI). This means that if we want to prepare a list of rare plant species for a project, we need to be able to efficiently search the Rare Plant Inventory.

Rare plant record

Each plant in the RPI has its own detail page. This page includes the plant’s scientific name, including any synonyms, conservation status in California and elsewhere, natural history, threats, range, and number of occurrences. We also often link other documents, such as status reviews, in a species’ detail page. The fields in the detail page are all linked to the glossary, where descriptions of each field can be found.Santa Lucia monkeyflower (Erythranthe hardhamiae) search on the rare plant inventory

In addition, the plant detail page includes links to more information, including the Jepson eFlora (for a morphological description of the plant), Calflora and CCH2 for location information, and CalPhotos for pictures.

We can search for plants in the RPI based on conservation status, natural history information, and location using the simple and advanced search functions.

Using simple search in the RPI

Simple Search allows you to search the Rare Plant Inventory by multiple criteria, including CRPR (California Rare Plant Rank), county, lifeform, scientific or common name, year added, and if plants are indigenous to islands. (Other criteria, such as habitat and conservation status other than CRPR can be searched for using the advanced search function, which we will cover in a later post).

As an example, we could search for all plants ranked as 1B in Monterey County by going to the simple search page, clicking on the “1B, endangered” button, selecting “Monterey County”, and submitting our search.

Simple search for all plants ranked as 1B in Monterey County, clicking on the “1B, endangered” button, selecting “Monterey County”, and submitting our search.

Submitting this search gives us a list of 115 plants, all with a rank of 1B and documented in Monterey County.

115 matches found for simple search for 1B, Monterey County 

We can choose what data is shown in the web browser by selecting or deselecting any of the column options at the top of the page. Adding habitat information can be helpful in determining where to search for a particular species.

Adding selection of "General Habitats"

We can also narrow results further by using the filter field. For example, if we only want plants that flower in May, we can filter our results like this:

Filtering results with "May" to see blooming period

This table can be exported two ways. Using the export results button downloads an excel file with all data returned in the original search. To have the table as shown in the browser, print the webpage as a pdf.

Simple search is a good way to create rare plant lists for your projects!

Thanks to Ellen Dean for her input. Statistics on plant diversity in California are from the Jepson Flora (2012), RPI, and Amy Patten. 


  1. Hi,
    I’m looking for the non-invasive, Giant Miscanthus, commonly known as Elephant Grass.
    Can you direct me to any sources that you may know of in Northern California that carries the plant or seed??

    Thank you,
    Peter Albert/#530-300-3557.

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