The database also contains high-resolution images of live plants for most Indiana species, some of which were collected by members of the IU Herbarium. The data is cross-referenced against the text of "Flora of Indiana" and Gleason and Cronquist's "Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada" -- a major text in the world of botany -- to provide greater historical detail about the plants and improve searchability.

"The inclusion of common names and familiar images in the database, which helps make this information broadly accessible, is possible in part by the university's sustained, multiyear commitment to digitizing this collection," Knox said.

Because the IU Herbarium's data is housed within a larger network of 37 million specimen records from 766 natural history collections across the U.S., IU's improvements to the collection also benefit many other institutions in the system, including the over 130 other herbaria across the Midwest.

Moreover, the IU Herbarium collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey to improve the accuracy of the geocoordinates that indicate the collection point of each plant in the system. The resulting system, which overlays historical data with current Google maps, is available to the public at GEOLocate.

The IU Herbarium also partnered with the IU Libraries and University Information and Technology Services to ensure access to the many terabytes required to store images in the collection. The Imago system is also available to other Indiana herbaria. It is supported by Jetstream cloud technology operated by IU Research Technologies, part of the Pervasive Technology Institute at IU.

"A significant amount of data on Indiana's flora is now available to the larger research community, and the task of identifying plants in any of Indiana's 92 counties has been vastly simplified," Knox said. "These new online tools will enable everyone, from scientists to nonexperts, to gain a greater knowledge and appreciation of our natural world."

Additional support for the IU Digital Herbarium was provided by the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, the IU Bloomington Department of Biology, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, the Office of the Vice President for Research, UITS and private donations to the IU Herbarium Fund.