Mapping Species Distributions


Read about limitations of our maps here.

Golden Fleabane (Erigeron aureus), photo by Virginia Skilton


Mapping is a significant component of E-Flora BC and helps us visualize species distributions. On E-Flora BC, we use dynamic interactive mapping that allows users to explore species distributions using a comprehensive centralized data set.

Dynamic Interactive Mapping

Dynamic interactive mapping is significant in two ways.

1) A dynamic map is one that is generated at the moment of a search and this means that the maps are based upon the most up-to-date versions of available databases--that is, they are current. We update our mapping database regularly.

2) Interactive GIS maps are more than 'just maps'--they are analytical tools that allow users control over the information they wish to view. That is, instead of simply displaying distribution, the interactive maps provide you with with a default view, but also allow you to select the layers you wish to view.  You can turn layersw off and on for your personal selection. 

Key Points About Our Interactive Mapping

  • The databases we make available on our E-Flora maps are listed below. Metadata for htese databases is also listed below.
  • The maps you view  on E-Flora BC display a pre-selected set of information by default. That is, we display information from key collections databases by default. But you can choose to add or remove information layers.  You can, for example, add or view the BEC layer, IAPP layer, and the Illustrated Flora of BC layer.  Just turn the layer on.
  • No matter which layers you turn off or on, you will be viewing the distribution of a species as represented by 1) collections, 2) photo records, 3) observations recorded from plot surveys by the provincial government. The maps do not represent a complete distribution of a species, rather, the maps show distribution/locations represented by these collections, photo records, etc..
  • Interactive maps are aimed at user interaction. Users can view distribution based on our default presentation or they can participate in the presentation of the map by choosing which layers to view. This gives you analytical opportunities when using the maps. Once you open the full-sized interactive map for your species, you can then decide which layers you prefer to view by turning layers off and on.
  • For our maps, we provide occurrence records (from collections, photo records, and observations) that you can select from, and we provide biogeographic layers that you can overlay on the maps to explore ecological components of species.
  • Layers can be turned off and on in any combination. Users can view them singly, can turn on all layers, or can turn on only selected layers.
  • Once you have selected the layers you wish to view, you can then view the data that lies behind each distribution dot.  To view the data behind our dots, just click on a dot. The associated data will be displayed in a pop-up window.

The data layers we provide include all available databases of plant distribution in BC. This includes both collections-based and observation-based databases (e.g. the BEC and IAPP database). These databases are listed in the data box on the right hand side of the map. Details on the databases are provided below. Note that the distribution shown on our maps is only as accurate and up-to-date as the databases we use.  Each institution works to update their database and their collections identifications on an ongoing basis. New taxonomic work may or may not be reflected in a database immediately.

Changing the Default Layers

Check the boxes in the Layers and Legends window in order to turn on additional data layers, uncheck them to turn layers off. For example, in the figure below, the Illustrated Flora of BC layer is turned off (the checkbox is empty), while the BC Conservation Data Centre (CDC) and the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria layers are turned on (the checkboxes contain a ✔).

Layers and Legends

 Small and Big Maps

On E-Flora, we provide two versions of our maps:

  • a small-sized map on the atlas pages that is a snapshot of our full-sized maps
  • a full-sized distribution map. To access the full-sized map, click on the link below the small map on the atlas page. The legend for the maps is located on the full-sized versions.

Geographic Area Covered By Our Maps

Our maps focus primarily on species distribution in BC and the Pacific Northwest but may also provide some coverage of other regions (if this information is present in the databases we use in our mapping). Pan the interactive maps to view distribution dots in other regions.  Although our maps open up on BC, you can pan to anywhere on earth.

Listed Species on the Maps

Locations of listed species in British Columbia (that is, rare, threatened or endangered species) are mapped to general coordinates only.

Where to report map errors

Our maps are based on data provided by various sources. Map errors should be reported to the data provider. Contact information for our data providers is provided below, or go here.

Red-flagged maps on E-Flora

Where our maps significantly differ from currently known distribution of a species in the province, based on re-assessments conducted by Conservation Data Centre botanists and other botanists, they will be red-flagged. There is often a lag time between reassessment of a species and incorporation of that information into the databases we use for mapping.


Information presented on our distribution maps is drawn from these databases :

Metadata for the databases

UBC (UBC Herbarium Database)

The UBC Herbarium has provided us with BC records for vascular and nonvascular plants that have been entered into their databases with latitudes and longitudes. This represents ~88,5000 vascular plant records, ~75,300 bryophyte records, ~42,300 algae records, and ~26,600 lichen records. The collections are continuously being computerized with the lichen and fungal collections complete, algae 80% entered, and vascular and bryophyte collections data entry roughly 60% complete. The UBC herbarium databases were used in development of our interactive maps.  The complete UBC Herbarium plant databases, with nearly 450,000 records, are available on-line. Please send comments and corrections directly to the UBC herbarium

IFBC (Illustrated Flora of BC Database)

Metadata for the Illustrated Flora of BC (IFBC) database can be found here. Some of the records are based on field notes, published floras and drawn maps.  Therefore, not all records will have an associated herbarium collection. Also, it is impossible to determine which herbarium record corresponds with a specific IFBC dot on the map, given the nature of the data. Number of records: 102,573.  Illustrated Flora of BC data may also be viewed in hard copy via the 8-volume set by Douglas et al. 1998-2002. 

BCCDC (British Columbia Conservation Database)

Records from the BCCDC are from the Non-sensitive Occurrences database (~2700 vascular plant records). These records are individual, verified occurrences for species mapped by the BC Conservation Data Centre. Information on the content of this database can be found here. Please send comments and corrections related to either database to Jenifer Penny.

BEC (Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification Database

The provincial Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) database, representing over 1,238,000 observation records in the province, and used in the development of the BC provincial BEC maps, was used in the creation of both our static maps and our interactive maps, BEC data is presented on approximately 2230 of the E-Flora vascular and nonvascular plant atlas pages (not all BC species fall within BEC survey plots).  Only < 10% of the records within this database are represented by collections maintained in a herbarium. Additional information on the BEC database is provided here.  BEC is an hierarchical system that uses climate, soil and characteristic vegetation to group ecosystems at various levels, including regionally, locally and chronologically. BEC data was used to generate our ecology information tables for each species, where available.
Please send comments and corrections to Will MacKenzie.

CAN (The National Herbarium of Canada Vascular Plant Database)

The National Herbarium of Canada, Canadian Museum of Nature, has provided us with all of their BC records for vascular plants contained in their database as of October 2003. This represents 9,521 collections, and includes all species, and collectors names.  This database is used in both our static maps and our interactive maps.
Please send comments and corrections directly to Jennifer Doubt.

ALTA (Devonian Botanical Garden Bryophyte Database)

The Devonian Botanical Garden has provided the BC portion of their bryophyte database to E-Flora BC. This represents specimen and locational information that is discrete from the UBC bryophyte holdings (~4260 records). Please send comments and corrections to Rene Belland.

IPP (BC Ministry of Forests and Range InvasivePlant Program database)

This observation-based database adds considerably to the known distribution of more than 130 invasive species in the province, and appears on our maps as an additional data layer labeled as the Invasive Alien Plant Program (now known as the Invasive Plant Program) (~163,400 records). Information on the database can be found here, and instructions on how to obtain direct access to their database is provided here. Please send comments and corrections to Val Miller.

V (RBCM) (Royal British Columbia Museum Herbarium Database)

The RBCM (V) vascular and nonvascular plant records used in E-Flora represent only about 50% of the collections contained within that herbarium--that is, only those collections that have been entered in their vascular plant database as of 2004.  Because of their data policy restrictions, no Red- or Blue-listed species records are included in our copy of their database, and all information associated with the collector has also been removed.  The total number of records provided to us is 71.587.  Please send comments and corrections directly to Dr. Ken Marr.

ALA (University of Alaska Herbarium Database)

Vascular and nonvascular plant records for southern Alaska were downloaded from ARCTOS (~109,000 records in 2013). Information on the Herbarium can be found here.

MT (Marie-Victorin Herbarium Database)

The Marie-Victorin Herbarium (MT) is the second largest university herbarium in Canada and Quebec, and ranks fourth among all Canadian herbaria. It includes about 620,000+ vascular plants and 50,000+ bryophytes. However, only 35,283 records can be mapped. Details are provided here.

TRT (Green Plant Herbarium Database)

The Green Plant Herbarium holds in excess of 370,000 accessioned vascular plants; however, only 32,489 can be mapped. The collection, formerly at the University of Toronto, is now owned by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) Department of Natural History. Details are provided here.

PNW (Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria Database)

Vascular and nonvascular plant records were obtained from the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database (~355,500 vascular plant records, ~11180 bryophyte records, ~12,780 lichen records). Note that BC-specific records from UBC and the RBCM (V) have been treated separately (i.e., the CPNWH records plotted in E-Flora BC do not include records from UBC or V). The Consortium records include records from Oregon State University Herbarium, University of Idaho Stillinger Herbarium, University of Washington Herbarium (Accessed through PNW Herbaria Portal,, 2014-03). Questions and corrections for data from the Consortium should be directed to the individual institutions/data providers listed here.


British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database.

These species code files contain the presently accepted scientific and common names for vascular plants, mosses and lichens of British Columbia. The liverworts and hornworts included on this list are derived from the North American lists, as a B.C. list does not exist. Species attributes include lifeform, toxicity, weed status, wetland indicator value, rare (red or blue list) ranking, and whether native or exotic. As the Illustrated Flora of British Columbia is now complete (a total of 8 volumes), this list will only be updated when required (every 1- 2 years). Additional details, and the complete species list, can be found on the BEC web site. The citation for this data is: Meidinger, Del; Lee, Tina; Douglas, George W.; Britton, Greg; MacKenzie, Will.; Qian, Hong. 2009. British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database. Research Branch. B.C. Ministry of Forests.



Recommended citation:  Author, date, page title. In: Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2018. E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Date Accessed]

E-Flora BC: An initiative of the Spatial Data Lab, Department of Geography UBC, and the UBC Herbarium.

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