Living Landscape Function Calculator

Online Resource of Plant Functions

Shared with the permission of Timber Press 


…we need to select the plants that are best at performing essential ecosystem functions within our built landscapes. Which plants are these? Enter the function calculator, the first tool designed specifically for landscape architects and designers to facilitate plant choice based on ecological function rather than simply aesthetics. The Function Calculator will be a game-changer that will enable us to achieve the sustainable relationship with our ecosystems that we so desperately need.  


Dr. Doug Tallamy; November 9, 2017

The current work being done on the Living Landscape Function Calculator has the potential to allow people from horticulture, environmental, educational, and landscape architectural fields to have access to an operating system for the purpose of standardizing function in the landscape. While many systems exist to aid in creating a landscape few address the issues and abilities of plants environmental impact. Much of the documentation is spread across numerous studies, papers, and other sources of data. This make navigation into the subject difficult for those who might be less familiar with the principles of how landscapes can function beyond aesthetic value.


As a nursery owner and a grower of plants I believe the greatest impact to the industry is to those project managers and landscapers being challenged to incorporate principles of sustainability and ecological function within currently existing or new work. A few years ago a trend began in the use of native plants leading to many questions from our landscape customers; now those questions are not as much of origin but what does a plant do? The designers know native plants work. But why do they work and how do I show my customer how they work.


The calculator provides a tool for solving that problem. How do I create a rain garden that functions as a bee habitat or butterfly garden in a xeric area? The calculator helps downsize the research workload for a landscaper. Also the customers that are hiring landscapers and members of the public find themselves bombarded with information when they have the desire to do what they feel is the right thing in their landscapes. Wonderful information exists on all the subject matter.  Many home owners are not entomologists, ecologists, horticulturists, or ornithologists. A simple device designed to assist them in the journey to become backyard/front yard environmentalist is essential in creating dynamic change at a local community level.


This tool can be the foundation of assisting in the inspiration of home owners to further their interests and actions related to sustainable landscapes. We at Cavano’s Perennials have enjoyed working with folks involved with this project and supporting them in this endeavor.    



Taylor Pilker, Vice President

Cavano’s Perennials Inc.    May 14, 2018

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