ISSN 1188-603X

No. 157 February 15, Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: M. J. Dallwitz, T. A. Paine, and E. J. Zurcher (

Computer-based multi-access keys, also known as interactive keys, can offer several advantages over conventional keys:

Other desirable features include:

It is an inevitable consequence of the flexibility of interactive keys that much of the strategy involved in carrying out an identification is left to the user. Good strategies must be learnt if the keys are to be used to the best advantage.

M. J. Dallwitz, T. A. Paine, and E. J. Zurcher
Division of Entomology, CSIRO, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601,
Australia. Fax +61 6 246 4000. Email
Home Page


From: Alex Inselberg (

[This is an abbreviated abstract of the Forest Renewal of British Columbia funding proposal.]

RAPID will be an interactive plant identification computer program which will greatly accelerate the process of identifying vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens within B.C. The program and its database will continue to grow and evolve, and will possibly become our most valuable and readily accessible resource for plant identification. Images and line drawings will be an integral part of RAPID. In addition to the program's primary function, it will also be a useful teaching aid.

The random access approach to plant identification is dynamic compared with the restrictive dichotomous key approach used in traditional paper-based methods. This will allow greater exploration of the rich descriptive attributes of plants, in addition to their ecological characteristics. RAPID will be constructed as a relational database, which is a sophisticated and efficient way to store and quickly retrieve information.

Plant identification will begin with the selection of any of a variety of characteristics from an introductory menu. For example, identification will involve decisions on the following: location in the province, type of site, plant life form, physical size features, and a variety of properties associated with stems, leaves, inflorescence types, flowers, fruits, and roots. If you have an idea of the plant family or genus, you will be able to begin your search from that point. With each selection of a characteristic feature the list of likely candidate species is potentially shortened. The program will also advise on those characters most likely to discriminate amongst the species remaining. For example, if the type of leaf margin is able to discriminate amongst the remaining species in your candidate list, it will automatically move to the top of your list of "best" characters.

In the event a given plant characteristic cannot be clearly defined, e.g. a leaf is pubescent or possibly tomentose, you can ask the program to include all species with either description. Likewise if you are unsure your sample is considered a tree or a shrub, you can include both trees and shrubs in your selection. For those species which may be indistinguishable without expertise and access to materials such as a microscope or special chemicals, the user will be notified with a warning message. Likewise if a crucial plant component must be present in order to make a positive identification, the user will be notified.

Plant names may be displayed in either common or scientific names, along with the correct Latin code used to enter species names on field data forms. Explanation of any of the terminology used in the menus and keys will also be readily available in the form of text, diagrams and images.

Approach: Efforts are being made to learn about similar systems and initiatives in other parts of the world. RAPID's features will be carefully selected to ensure it meets the needs of field personnel here in B.C., as well as the broader goals and standards of international data exchange. RAPID will ultimately be the property of the B.C. Government. Wherever possible, RAPID will be a cooperative effort with other developers of similar initiatives and databases within and outside of the province.

When this project goes ahead, a web page will be constructed for the purpose of information exchange and updates.

For more information on interactive plant identification see the following:

[For interactive identification programs see also BEN # 96, March 25, 1995.]


From: Mike Dallwitz (

The DELTA programs, and several data sets, are available via anonymous ftp from (directory: /pub/delta) and via WWW from

The file Index.txt (note the upper-case I) contains a list of the available programs and data. Most of the subdirectories of delta contain text files *.1st which contain information about downloading and installing the programs or data in that sub-directory. When using ftp, always enter the command `binary' at the start of the session.

When downloading the program distribution files, place them in a directory \DELTA. To install the programs, follow the instructions in Delta.1st.

The programs are supplied with documentation files, sample data, and a list of references. The conditions of use are in a file delta.use, and the prices in delta.reg. These files are within both of the self-extracting archive files delta1@.exe (MS-DOS INTKEY) and deltaw@.exe (MS-Windows INTKEY).

There is a mailing list, DELTA-L, for discussion of DELTA and announcements of updates. To subscribe, send the message

     SUBSCRIBE DELTA-L your-first-name your-last-name

Submissions, subscriptions, etc.: BEN is archived on gopher The URL is: gopher:// Also archived at