The NRCS provides access to much information through its PLANTS database at http://plants.usda.gov (verified 10 Jan. 2010). This database provides users with a checklist of vascular and nonvascular plants and lichens of the United States and its territories, plus access to additional information.
A key entry point into PLANTS is through the PLANTS Name Search, which is accessible from the PLANTS home page. Through this particular search, the reader can search by common name, scientific name, or plant symbol. This search retrieves a list of records containing the input string. The user then may select the pertinent string to gain access to the Plant Profile for the target species. There is a Plant Profile for every taxon in the PLANTS database. A taxon is a taxonomic unit designating an organism or group of organisms. It is assigned a rank and placed at a particular level in a systematic hierarchy reflecting evolutionary relationships. Other entry points into the database include "Checklists & Searches" and "Classification."
The Plant Profile for a species, such as tall fescue, provides access to basic plant attributes (e.g., plant symbol, family, growth habit, duration, U.S. nativity), images, synonymy, plant characteristics, plant fact sheet, plant guide, state and county distribution maps, invasive information, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wetland indicator status, wildlife habitat status, and links to other web sites containing pertinent information (e.g., forage, production, conservation, control, breeding, toxicity, ecology). Not all of these items are available for all taxa. To access the Plant Profile for tall fescue from the PLANTS home page http://plants.usda.gov; the reader should enter "tall fescue" into the Name Search box as a common name.
The Plant Fact Sheets and Guides provide basic information about the identification, production, and management of the selected species. In May 2009, PLANTS contained 770 of these documents, including a Fact Sheet and a Guide for tall fescue.
Tall fescue has been a taxon of some serious debate among plant systematists. During the past decade agrostologists have realized that Festuca is comprised of several, often marginally related, lineages (see Chapter 2). There have been fairly good arguments for tall fescue, formerly known as Festuca arundinacea, to be retained in the genus Lolium (see Chapter 2) but recently some systematists have stated that it should be part of the genus Schedonorus. It is placed there in the Catalogue of New World Grasses (Soreng et al., 2009) and in the Flora of North America grass volume (Barkworth et al., 2007). Tall fescue has been recognized by the National Plant Data Center as Schedonorus phoenix within PLANTS, but it is expected that will be changed to Schedonorus arundinaceus with the next update. Although S. arundinaceus was an illegitimate name when PLANTS was updated last, the name has been conserved specially through a mechanism developed recently in the botanical nomenclature rules.
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