Currently 523,580 distribution records exist in GRIN for the 56,387 taxa for which distributional data are provided. Each record is a linkage between a continent, country, or state occurrence and an accepted taxon name. Country designations follow standards of the U.S. Government as implemented in GRIN. GRIN distribution records are grouped into areas and regions in accordance with the standard publication World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (Hollis and Brummitt, 1992), which divides the terrestrial world into nine areas: Africa, Antarctic, Asia-Temperate, Asia-Tropical, Australasia, Europe, Northern America, Pacific, and Southern America.

Distributions are given as reported in the literature or by consulted specialists. Native or potentially native distributions are recorded and displayed separately from cultivated, adventive, or naturalized distributions. For weedy species this distinction is sometimes obscure, and some widespread taxa may have their entire distributions summarized as a comment. State distributions for some larger countries are provided when these are available, although sometimes these are not itemized for taxa widespread within those countries. However, a distributional report for a taxon in a geographical or political region does not necessarily imply widespread occurrence in that region, but only indicates that a literature citation or other basis exists for that report. When available more specificity in GRIN distributional reports is given as comments, but the available information may vary greatly from one taxon or region to another. Among regions, the greatest gaps in information exist mainly for tropical regions.

For species with subspecies or varieties in GRIN, the main entry for the species provides the overall distribution, including distributions for any subspecies or varieties not appearing in GRIN. Autonym entries provide distributions of only the typical subspecies or variety which occupies all or only a portion of the total distribution for the species.