"And what's really neat about it is that you can literally go back in time to the 1850s and 1860s when the first geological survey took place and see the distribution of these plants," says Doran.
And while that kind of information is critical for research, it's now benefiting an even more down to earth group of people, homeowners and gardeners.
"And what we've done is selected an address in San Francisco," explains Staci Markos, Ph.D., as she demonstrates a powerful new website called Calscape.
The site is a collaboration between Jepson and the California Native Plant Society. She says it works like a kind of GPS for finding native plants.
"To find a customized list based on your address for native plants that will grow in your garden.," says Markos.
She says the site draws its power from sophisticated software that sorts through Jepson's database and other sources, pinpointing where native plants were originally found and where they're known to thrive. After narrowing the choices, the site provides another practical tool.
"This is the fun part for gardeners, you can come and find a list of nurseries that are currently carrying this plant in their inventory," says Markos.
Besides being suited for your exact neighborhood, she says the plants are likely to attract native wildlife, birds and butterflies.
"And we're helping to restore nature, one garden at a time," says a smiling Markos.
If you're interested in learning more, you can do so at California Native Plant Society, The Jepson Herbarium and the Consortium of California Herbaria http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/consortium/
Written and produced by Tim Didion.