Gymnosperm Database
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The Gymnosperm Database is a not-for-profit site. We receive no payments or support other than through the occasional sale of photographs. Please consider making a donation through Paypal. Give what you choose; we suggest a $50 annual donation for professionals living in western countries, with a proportionate reduction for less prosperous souls.

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Welcome to the Gymnosperm Database, the web's premier source of information on conifers and their allies. Since we went online on 1997, the Database has attracted worldwide attention as a readily accessible, scientifically accurate source of information on the classification, description, ecology and uses of this culturally and ecologically important group of plants. This home page gives some hints about how to navigate the Database, as well as providing background information for the curious.

There are four major sections of the site:

Species In-depth descriptions of all the families, genera, and species of gymnosperms. For each species I provide information on classification, description, ecology, ethnobotany, and various other topics of interest. This section comprises about 90% of the site.
Topics Things that are not strictly tied to a particular species. For instance, it includes pages on the gymnosperms of Australia, the oldest trees in the world, and accounts of some of my field excursions. If you are interested in exploring the site, I encourage you to check out Topics.
Bookstore Most of the books sold here are linked through Amazon, and if you buy them through this site, the price is the same to you but some of the proceeds come to me, to help support the Database. Some books aren't available through Amazon but I list them anyway, because in the Bookstore I try to give you access to every important gymnosperm publication currently in print.
Aljos Farjon Gallery Aljos Farjon is currently the dean of conifer biology. Besides heading the IUCN's conifer conservation group and authoring eleven books on conifers as well as many smaller publications, he is also an artist whose pen-and-ink drawings of conifers have adorned many of his books. Many of those drawings are now available as limited edition prints, for sale only through this site. The Gallery currently show 20 of his best drawings.

Background on the Site

Some Other Links

Besides the Topics page, here are a couple of other links to get you started:

My curriculum vita (PDF file)

A personal note

The Gymnosperm Database was established as an online entity in the summer of 1997 and has since grown steadily, getting its own URL ( in the summer of 1999. Currently the Database provides information for all species and higher-ranked taxa of the gymnosperms, i.e., conifers, cycads, ginkgo, and the gnetophytes. You enter the taxonomic tree at the Family level and then navigate to the Genus, Species or sometimes Variety levels. At each level, information on the taxon is provided, along with bibliographic citations that will take you to more detailed information about the taxon.

How to Use This Site

Description of Database Fields.

If you have a specific question, use the search box at left. Otherwise, I suggest you start with the Topics page, or browse the family, genus, and species accounts. The site covers conifers, ginkgo and gnetophytes (Ephedra, Gnetum, and Welwitschia) in detail. Although they are gymnosperms, in recent years I have neglected the cycads because an excellent site, The Cycad Pages, exists to provide the same sort of information that I would otherwise have to collect.

Place Names

For all place names I use the common English name (e.g., "Spain" instead of "España"). I try to name every nation that each species is native to. For species native to Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia, and China, I try to name every state or province that each species is native to. Abbreviations are not used. This information will help you in geographic searches. For instance, to find all the gymnosperms native to Iowa, simply type in the search term "Iowa."

Computer stuff

In order to navigate through the various taxa, you need to use a browser that supports forms and javascript. It seems to work well in most popular graphic browsers, but frankly, I don't do formal testing on anything but Firefox and Chrome, since I regard them as the best browsers around. In my experience the Database also shows well in most smartphone browsers and does not require magnification to be readable. Someday I would like to make it more mobile-friendly but with over 1,500 HTML pages in the Database, extensive format revisions tend to be cumbersome.

The Database is not a "real" database. I tried running it with Microsoft Access, but over a period of years, I gradually decided that the uniform organization provided by a database is not especially useful for the purposes of the Gymnosperm Database. So, nowadays it simply consists of a large collection of HTML files (W3C compliant HTML 4.01, put together with PHP). The benefit of this is that I spend more time writing about gymnosperms and less time programming. The website code is mostly written with BBEdit, which is very good software if you like to program in code.

Links to citations pop up an a small window, like this. Links to photos also generally pop up in a window, though a few take you offsite. Onsite links take you directly to the linked page, while offsite links open in a new browser window (or a new tab).

One consequence of the longevity of the database is that the graphics quality varies quite a bit. When I started out, everybody was working on a 640×480 pixel screen and images larger than 20 KB took forever to download. So, some of the old images on the site are quite small. Currently the site is laid out to fit in an 800×600 window (which works well for browsers, smartphones, and hardcopy printing) and some of the pictures are over 100 KB, although pictures larger than 10 KB are only shown in pop-up windows. I entered digital photography in 2001 and the hardware has steadily improved since that time. By the way, my Flickr account has many more photos of gymnosperms.

Appeal for volunteer assistance

People sometimes write and say, "Who writes the database?" The answer is, I do. I have assembled most of the database and done essentially all of the computer-based work: typing, scanning images, writing code, etc. Any assistance is welcome! To date I have received helpful advice from a variety of recognized taxonomic authorities, as well as information on individual taxa from persons scattered across the globe. Many visitors have sent photos or even fine art drawings of gymnosperms. In fact, I have to say that running this website has introduced me to new friends, provided opportunities to travel to memorable places, and provided opportunities to share both my writing and photography. The correspondence related to this site provides one of the greatest rewards of maintaining this site. However, if you would like to increase those rewards, you could buy some books (from via my gateway/bookstore located HERE.

Last Modified 2017-11-08