TRY: A Freely Available Global Plant Trait Database

Resource provides unprecedented coverage of plant morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical, and phenological characteristics.

The Science

TRY is a plant trait database with nearly 12 million records describing how plant form and function vary across the globe; all of the data in TRY are now freely available for download by the broader scientific community at try-db.org. These data inform the understanding of ecosystem water, carbon, and nutrient cycling, now and in response to changing environmental conditions.

The Impact

Data in the TRY plant trait database have been downloaded and utilized by more than 200 publications, ranging from Landscape and Urban Planning to Geoscientific Model Development; these publications have been cited more than 10,000 times and have improved the understanding of topics ranging from climate change to plant functional diversity.


Plant traits—morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics—determine how plants respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, and influence ecosystem properties. Plant trait data underpin research ranging from evolutionary biology, community and functional ecology, and biodiversity conservation, to ecosystem and landscape management, restoration, biogeography, and Earth system modeling. Since its foundation in 2007, the TRY database of plant traits has grown continuously. In particular, the Fine-Root Ecology Database (FRED), supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), has contributed 700 new root traits to the TRY database. TRY now provides unprecedented data coverage under an open access data policy and is the main plant trait database used by the research community worldwide. Increasingly, TRY also supports new frontiers of trait-based plant research, including the identification of data gaps and the subsequent mobilization or measurement of new data. Despite unprecedented data coverage, reducing data gaps and biases in the TRY database remains a key challenge and requires collaboration with other initiatives such as FRED.

Principal Investigator(s)

Colleen M. Iversen
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Related Links


The project is supported by the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry; Max Planck Society; German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig; International Programme of Biodiversity Science (DIVERSITAS); International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP); Future Earth; French Foundation for Biodiversity Research (FRB); de Groupement d’Intérêt Scientifique (GIS) Climat, Environnement et Société, France; United Kingdom Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); AXA Research Fund; and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science program of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science.


Kattge, J., G. Bönisch, S. Díaz, S. Lavorel, I. C. Prentice, P. Leadley, S. Tautenhahn, G. D. A. Werner, et al. (700+ co-authors). “TRY plant trait database – Enhanced coverage and open access.” Global Change Biology 26(1), 119–88 (2020). [DOI:10.1111/gcb.14904].