The elegance of classification lies in its ability to compile and systematize various terminological conventions and masses of information that are unattainable during typical research projects. Imagine a discipline without standards for collection, analysis, and interpretation; unfortunately, that describes much of 20th-century vegetation ecology. With differing methods, how do we assess community dynamics over decades, much less centuries? How do we compare plant communities from different areas? The need for a widely applied vegetation classification has long been clear. Now imagine a multi-decade effort to assimilate hundreds of disparate vegetation classifications into one common classification for the US. In this letter, we introduce the US National Vegetation Classification (USNVC; www.usnvc.org) as a powerful tool for research and conservation, analogous to the argument made by Schimel and Chadwick (2013) for soils. The USNVC provides a national framework to classify and describe vegetation; here we describe the USNVC and offer brief examples of its efficacy.