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Searching PlantFacts

To search, enter the desired keyword(s) and click the Search button.

PlantFacts will return a list of relevant pages, including their URLs. Clicking the URL would connect you to the actual page containing the desired word(s).

PlantFacts makes searchable indexes of factsheets and bulletins from agricultural web sites found in the United States and Canada. You can, for example, locate factsheets or bulletins found on a horticultural site that contain the words "Rudbeckia" or "coneflower". Pages matching the search criteria are presented as hyperlinks on the results page so you can go immediately to what you are looking for. There are options for both the search page and results page. The sections below explain those options and presents some strategies to help search PlantFacts indexes in the most efficient manner.

Search Options

Search Tips

List of Factsheet and Bulletin Sources

Search Option

Basic Searches
When you enter a single word in the search keywords field and click the Search button, PlantFacts will look into it's indices for the word. If it is found the corresponding list of pages that contain that word is returned as the search results. This is the most basic type of search (and often very productive).

Boolean Searches

If you enter more than one word to search for, PlantFacts will apply Boolean (and/or) logic to determine what pages match your search.

By default, PlantFacts performs a Boolean AND search if more than one word is provided to search with. A search using the words "Rudbeckia fulgida coneflower" is essentially looking for "Rudbeckia" AND "fulgida" AND "coneflower" on the same page. Only pages that contain all the search words are returned.


Searching in Regions

PlantFacts can be set up to separate the pages it indexes into regions. This provides the option to confine searches to particular regions by clicking the radio button beside the region you want to search. Only one region can be selected. If no regions are selected then all regions are included in the search.

Number of Results Returned

The "Number of matches" popup is used to set a maximum number of found pages to return on each results page. This prevents a search that finds several hundred or thousand pages from creating a very large results page. On pages that show only the first selection of pages found there is a link to get the next selection. For example, if searching for "Rudbeckia" finds 80 pages with the return number set to 10 then the first results page will show pages 1 through 10 and there will be a link to get the next 10 in the selection (11 through 20), and so forth.

Search Results

The top of the results page from a search shows the words used in the search and the number of pages found. If more pages are found than the maximum to display, the number of pages listed is displayed along with the total number found:

Searching for "Rudbeckia" found 80 pages and returned 1 through 10.

The result information for each page found by a search displays the following information:

  • HTML Title (or file name if no title is present)
  • The first 250 characters found on the page
  • The full URL to the page

Search results are always sorted by relevance (the most relevant first). Relevance is based on the number of occurrences and positioning of words as they appear in each document. For example, words in the HTML TITLE tag are weighted heavier than words that are contained in the body of the page.

Finding Similar Pages

When detailed results are returned from a search, each page listed has an option to "Find similar pages". Each page indexed by PlantFacts contains a summary string of words most represented on the page. Clicking the "Find similar pages" link for a page will make FSD find pages similar to the selected page. PlantFacts does this by performing a new search for the most relevant words in the selected page.

Search Tips

Planning Your Search
When searching PlantFacts, you should think about the words associated with your subject. If you are looking for information on pruning fruit trees, entering the following keywords would help you to narrow your search: "prune fruit tree". This is better than "how do I prune fruit trees" because the words "how do I" will be ignored as noise words (see below).

If you are searching for nitrogen fertilizer information, searching on words like "nutrition", "nutrient", "element", can provide additional information that might not have appeared when just searching "nitrogen fertilizer".

Finding Data Relevant To You

The ability to search specific regions greatly reduces the number of returned results. While this may be desirable when searching for information on crops or specific plants for your area of the country, it can be problematic for information which is useful throughout the entire continent.

When To Use Regional Searches

Many extension factsheets are written with the local hardiness zone in mind. Likewise, most are written for the environmental conditions which prevail in the home state. When you require information that is specific for your particular hardiness zone, then you should limit your search to regions which include the hardiness zone for your area. If the information you require is specific to your state, then pick either the region which includes your state or one that is close by. For example, if you live in a state which borders one or more regions, then including those regions in your search may yield additional information important to you. Not every state has its own factsheets available online, so choosing a neighbor state may be your only alternative.

When NOT To Use Regional Searches

When looking for information on house plants, you should search the entire PlantFacts Database since the care of houseplants is similar throughout the United States and Canada. You would also search all of PlantFacts when gathering all possible information on a particular subject and do not wish to be limited by region. This is especially helpful for student research.

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Website Administrator: Dr. Tim Rhodus
Department of Horticulture and Crop Science
Email: rhodus.1@osu.edu
© 2002 Ohio State University

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