What plants are growing at The Morton Arboretum, and where would they grow in the wild? In the coming years, it will be much easier to find out.
A $150,000 federal grant is making it possible for The Morton Arboretum to develop a database system that integrates data on plants in the living collections with data on plant specimens in the Arboretum’s herbarium. The herbarium contains more than 162,000 dried, preserved plant specimens collected from around the world. For each specimen, the Arboretum keeps crucial information regarding where the plant is found, habitats, and associated species. The Arboretum’s integrated plants database system will provide users an easy way to tap into this vast repository of information from a single web portal and to extend their understanding of the living collections. Public access to the database should be available in approximately two years.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded the money for the Arboretum’s planned Integrated Plant Collections Database. The system will join information from Arboretum living plant and herbarium collection databases, allowing centralized searches of both. Moreover, the system will serve as an excellent and flexible resource for more than 10,000 plant names utilized in the living and herbarium collections.
“The tangle of plant names out on the web and in print resources can be highly confusing,” said Dr. Andrew Hipp, arboretum plant systematist and herbarium curator. “Our goal with this system is to make this most basic of plant information — the name — consistent and understandable to the Arboretum public.”
Database users can enhance their knowledge regarding the living plant and herbarium collections by cross-referencing records. For example, one may find out more about a living plant, such as its location or habitat, by searching for data about the preserved specimen in the herbarium records. Providing access to such data is one step toward the Arboretum’s vision of being “the leading center of tree expertise.”