Frequently Asked Questions: PlantFiles

General QuestionsPlantScout Vendor Questions

    The system won't let me sign up!

    Here are tips to help overcome the most common problems:
    • Be sure you're trying to sign up here  (The two log-in boxes on our main page are where you'll log in once you have a username.)
    • Don't add spaces or characters (an underscore "_" is the only non-alpha/numeric character that can be used.)
    • Your chosen user name may already be taken; the more common the word or name, the more likely it is to be already in use.
    • Enter a valid email address in the second field, not your choice of passwords!  Our system will send you an initial password which you can change after logging in.
    If you continue to experience problems, please contact us for assistance.

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    What's a member (vs. a subscriber?)

    A membership to our site is free and provides you access to the basic features of PlantFiles, as well as the Garden Watchdog, the Garden Bookworm, your own personal garden journal, seed/plant trading tools, and an optional weekly newsletter. Non-subscribed members can participate in some of our forums, but read-only access to many of our most popular forums and a few forums are available  only to our subscribing members.

    have unlimited access to PlantFiles advanced search and browse features, plus dozens of our longest-running and most-popular discussion forums. Subscribers help financially support The cost is $19.95 per year, or $5 for a two-month trial subscription, for those who want to "test drive" these features before committing to a full year's subscription.

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    Why should I subscribe?

    We are a member-supported site. The ads you see can be turned off for subscribing members. We also do not sell, rent, or share our members' email addresses, or place spyware on your computer as some "free" sites do.

    The subscription and ad revenue we receive helps offset the expense of hardware and software required to maintain the entire website including PlantFiles and the Garden Watchdog.  (Subscribers also have the option of enjoying our site entirely ad-free.)

    As mentioned elsewhere in this FAQ, we offer many features free to all our users.  In addition to those basic tools and features, subscribed members can participate in all our discussion forums and have full access to PlantFiles' advanced features. If you want to subscribe, the subscription link above will walk you through the process.

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    Why didn't you reply to my question?

    We try to respond to all questions and comments we receive, usually within a day or so of receipt. However, if you don't type a valid email address in the correct field, we can't reply. If you didn't hear back from us, please check to make sure your user profile contains a working, valid address and try again. (If you aren't signed in as a registered user, be sure to enter only one valid address in the proper field. Including a second or third email address causes our response to be non-deliverable.) In some cases, it takes a considerable amount of time to research your question and respond; however, if you feel sufficient time has passed, please email us and we'll give you a status update on your report.

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    Why aren't the pictures showing up?

    If only one image is not loading, it may be a transmission "time-out" problem, or a problem with that image. Please try again to load the page; if the image refuses to appear, use the "report an error" link in the right-hand corner to let us know.

    If you are unable to see ANY images on our site, the problem is most likely within the "referer" field that your browser normally would send to a website. Some firewall and anti-virus software (for no good reason) disable the referers in your browser, and this can only be enabled through the firewall or anti-virus software. In short, Dave's Garden and PlantFiles REQUIRE referers in order for you to view pictures. This is to protect the copyright on the images that our members upload in good faith to the site. Referers are used to prevent thieves from stealing the images. It doesn't work 100%, but it's far more than any other site does. Most frequently, we hear about this problem from users who have installed firewall software.

    Three of the most common firewalls are McAfee, Norton and ZoneAlarm, so here are instructions to enable referers in both products. If you are using a different product, please consult your product's documentation to enable the referrers.

    McAfee Security Suite
    1. Click "Privacy Service"
    2. Click "Protect my identity"
    3. On the right margin click the line that says "I want to . . . protect identity information"
    4. Click the tab that says "CleanSlate" and deselect "Prevent 'referer' information from being shared"

    Norton Internet Security

    1. Open Norton Internet Security.
    2. Click "Options".
    3. Click "Internet Security".
    4. Click the "Advanced Options" button.
    5. Click the "Privacy" tab.
    6. Change Referrer (under Browsing Privacy) to "Permit"
    7. Click "OK".
    8. Click "OK" again.
    9. Close Norton Internet Security and the pictures should show up. 
    Zone Alarm
    1. Open the Zone Alarm configuration panel (Double click on the Zone Alarm icon on the bottom right of your Windows Taskbar, or open Zone Alarm from the "Start" and "Programs" menu.)
    2. Select the "Privacy" menu on the left hand side.
    3. Click on the button labelled "Custom", in the "Cookie Control" section
    4. Remove the tick from "Remove Private Header Information".
    5. Click "OK"
    6. Close the Zone Alarm configuration panel. 
    After following these instructions, the images should work fine; if they don't, please let us know.

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    Can I use images from the PlantFiles?

    Non-commercial use of our images is allowed. For example, you can use them on your own personal computer, or print them out for a personal garden journal. Any other use of our images (electronic or print) on another website, for public lectures, eBay listings, printed catalogs, books, etc. require written permission and proper credit. Contact us if you wish to use one or more of our image(s) and we'll help you obtain permission from the copyright holder(s) and provide you with suitable wording to credit PlantFiles.

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    Do you sell plants? (or, Where can I buy this plant?)

    Our newest feature, PlantScout can help you find who is selling the exact plant (or seeds) you're seeking - look for the next to a link that lets you know a plant is offered by one or more vendors.  PlantScout links into the Garden Watchdog so you can see each vendor's track record with other customers. 

    You can also check out our members' tradelists as you may find offers of plant cuttings, bulbs or seeds available for postage or for trade.  You must be a registered user (signing up for a username is free) to participate in our tradelists and email other members with your requests.

    Our subscribed members frequently ask each other for advice on where to buy a particular plant. To participate in our discussion forums and all our subscribers-only features, you can subscribe here.

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    I need help identifying a plant!

    We'd love to be able to provide free ID help through our helpdesk, but we simply can't.

    The good news is we offer a plant identification forum where all members can provide their expertise on images and descriptions submitted for plants and diseases. Typically, items are positively identified within a day or two of submission. (NOTE: You must be registered and logged in to participate in this free forum.)

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    How do I add a new plant?

    If you're sure the plant is not listed in the PlantFiles, the first step is to sign up for a free membership and log in.  Once you've done that, here are easy steps to create a new entry:
    1. Click on the "Add a new plant to the list" link (beneath the current images and comments on the homepage, or in the middle section of your tabs)
    2. Fill in all the appropriate fields. Common names should be capitalized as proper names ("Tall Bearded Iris" for example), as is the family and genus name. Species are not capitalized; cultivar name is entered without single (') or double (") marks and are capitalized. (We give extra points for correct spelling and capitalization!)
    3. After you press "submit" you'll have the option to go to your new entry and add details to it, and submit image(s) and a comment if you wish.
    For accuracy, all new entries are compared against a list of validated family and genus names names.  If you try to enter a new family or genus that is not on this list, the system may block your entry.  You can ask for an editor's assistance in the PlantFiles forum.

    Despite these safeguards, mistakes sometimes happen.  If you make a mistake or need assistance, use the "Report an Error" button (at the top) while you're looking at the entry.  Tell us what needs to be edited, and well take care of it for you.

    Note: PlantFiles is designed to be a user-friendly compendium of gardening and horticultural information, covering native and cultivated plants grown for their ornamental or culinary value.  Entries for plants grown primarily for their narcotic or psychotropic effects may be removed at the editors' discretion.

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    I have plant information to share

     If you'd like to share the information you have on a particular plant, you're welcome to do so in one of two ways:
    1. Anywhere you see an "Unknown - tell us", you can click on that link to check the appropriate boxes for the plant.
    2. If your information isn't something we have checkboxes for, you can add it as a comment - you'll find a link to do so beneath the entry and any other comments that have been posted
    Note:  If you don't see these links, you'll need to create a free member ID or log in if you've already completed the signup process. If you need further assistance, please let us know.

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    How do I add an image?

    To add images to our database, the first step is to create a user name and log in.  Once you've done that, you can:
    1. Select your watermark preference or allow the system to select the "default" watermark (the most commonly-seen watermark on the PlantFiles images);
    2. Access the correct plant entry and scroll down past the details and comments until you see "Add an image"
    3. Click on the "browse" button. This will open up a new window displaying your hard drive.  Locate your image you wish to upload, then press "Preview".
    4. Read the disclaimer and check or uncheck the box as fits your circumstances.
    5. Add a brief caption to note the season and/or location (arboretum, park, etc.), or the age of the plant. (Lengthy or detailed information should be added separately as a comment.)
    6. Preview your image.
    7. If you're happy with the entry, press "Submit".
    8. IMPORTANT:   Wait until you receive a message that your message was succesfully uploaded before using your browser's back/forward buttons or closing the page. If you don't wait for this message, the image will probably not load properly.
    Here are some tips for adding images successfully and easily:
    • We recommend a standard image size of at least 800 x 600 pixels.  You do not need to upload a thumbnail size image; our system will automatically create the thumbnail image.
    • Images that are saved as a .gif may take a while to load, especially if they're larger than 1MB; if you're on a slower connection, you may want to save it as a .jpg which will reduce the file size and reduce the wait time.

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    Why should I add images or information to PlantFiles?

    There are several good reasons to share your images and information:

    1.  What you know helps others - whether they're trying to identify a mystery plant, or choosing plants to grow in their own gardens.  PlantFiles is a vibrant, growing database because thousands of gardeners generously share their experience, information and photos for the benefit of others.

    2.  Your images receive public exposure, and may even be requested for commercial use elsewhere.  Several textbook and gardening magazine editors frequently browse through PlantFiles for images.  We help them contact members to negotiate for the use of an image in books or upcoming articles.

    3.  It's fun to see your submissions appear in the daily DG newsletter, and become an integral part of PlantFiles.

    4.  You can help your favorite plants make it to the top lists within PlantFiles by "voting" with your images, comments and even your ZIP code!

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    What do the green stars, yellow flags and red x's mean?

    It's a simple visual way of displaying how users feel about a particular plant. We encourage all our users to add a note and rating to all the plants you're familiar with.  (You must be logged in with a free username to add a comment.)  To keep things simple, we have three ratings, each with its own icon:

    Good Rating: Good rating. This plant has received more positive feedbacks than negative.

    Neutral rating: Neutral rating. This plant has received ratings, but they have all been neutral, or there are as many positive ratings as negative.

    Caution: Negative rating. This plant has received more negative ratings than positive

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    What do those eyes mean?

    The eyes  are a clue that the plant is available from one or more PlantScout vendors.  PlantScout is a Dave's Garden exclusive feature that lets you find sources for the specific plant species or varieties you're seeking.

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    Where are the images I submitted?

    When you submit an image to PlantFiles, it goes into a queue for review and is released, generally within 1-2 days. Usually one image per submitter will be chosen to be featured in the nightly newsletter; others will be released directly to PlantFiles. During times of heavy image submission, images may take a bit longer to be reviewed and released.

    If you want to check the status of your images, a link on your Member Page (click on "My Info" above to access it) lets you review those still pending. This is especially handy if you want to prevent a duplicate submission, or you're concerned that an image didn't properly load.

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    I read the FAQ and I've still got a question!

    This FAQ is intended to help answer the most common questions we receive; if you did not find the answer to your question, feel free to post your question to the PlantFiles discussion forum which is accessible to all registered users.  (Need to register?  Go here - it's free and easy!)

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