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Conifer Society website review

American Conifer Society website home page
Plant society websites are sometimes - well, how shall we put it? – not very tempting, especially those of smaller societies. So, when I heard that the American Conifer Society had totally revamped its site, I gave it a little time to get the bugs out and I then took a look. And what a pleasant surprise.

The home page is appealing, colorful and contemporary, clean and uncluttered, with a navigation bar across the top and panels listing Events (Society events), What’s New (revealing how active the Society and its members are on the site, with regular additions, blog posts and discussions), and Videos (interesting, but could do with a technical upgrade).

The nuts and bolts of the Society’s organization and its activities are presented with the same attractive look, easy-to-read text and with clear and helpful secondary navigation. So often this part of a society’s site looks dull and far from enticing but the simple and elegant design works well.

The Discussion button brings us to a wide range of topics from the all-too-familiar deer problem, to plant identification, propagation and pests and to current queries such as whether it’s wise to knock accumulated snow off conifer branches. Sensible questions with thoughtful answers. All the discussions are available for anyone to read, but only Society members can ask questions or post replies. There are blogs too; posts are not frequent but they’re well written and genuinely interesting.

There’s a button for Regions, with material from the four regional chapters, and then the tantalizing button American Conifer Society website Conifer Database entrythat says simply: Conifers – where it all unfolds. Here you’ll find lucid background on size, shapes, uses and naming of conifers – plus the Conifer Database. This is a searchable database of information about conifers, and pictures, provided by the Society and augmented by its members – especially in terms of pictures.

You can search by conifer size, habit etc. or you can pick out a particular genus, species or cultivar to find out about. This is building into an invaluable resource - especially with the benefit of images uploaded by Conifer Society members which can give a far more comprehensive understanding of how a plant looks at different ages and different seasons than any book. But at present it’s a work in progress. The hardiness zone maps need to be clearer and many individual cultivars still have neither words nor text. So if you grow conifers, join the American Conifer Society and add to this expanding resource.

Like most plant society websites, the American Conifer Society site is built and supported by the society’s volunteer members. But, unlike some, this society has built a site that is appealing to potential members in its look and its content and also provides a valuable platform for its members to advance their enthusiasm for conifers, and exchange ideas and solutions to problems. And so much information is also available to the rest of us that it helps us all grow better conifers and tempts us to join.

You can join the Conifer Society here.

Comments

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Chris C

Is that a ginko on the homepage? Seems an odd taxonomic choice, for a conifer society.

Sean C.

Hi Chris, this is Sean Callahan, the Web Editor of the site. If you go to the site you're likely to get a different background image each time. (There are over 30 different images that rotate on a random basis. Hit the refresh button on your browser to check it out.) I wanted to create the impression of something new each time you visited even if there is "news" only every day or so.

As for the ginkgo, which was up when Graham made his screen shot, taxonomists generally agree that ginkgo forms a clade within the gymnosperms, therefore it falls within the Society's sphere of interest.

Check out our database for more info on the gingko http://www.conifersociety.org/conifers/conifer/ginkgo/biloba/ . Use the pull-down window on the left to 'Select One' of the dozens of ginkgo cultivars that ACS members are collecting.

And thanks to Graham for his thoughtful review of what we're doing here. - S.C.

Graham Rice

Actually, Chris, while Sean is right about the classification of Ginkgo, the experts are not 100% agreed as to whether Ginkgo is truly a conifer or not. But it's been treated as a conifer for so long - and is included in the huge conifer encyclopedia that I reviewed here recently (http://www.transatlanticplantsman.com/transatlantic_plantsman/2014/01/spectacular-new-conifer-encyclopedia.html) - that it seems convenient to continue to treat as such.

And, after all, we've had quite enough other changes in classification to deal with recently so it's good to be able to leave this unchanged.

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