The Botanic Garden
 of  Smith College

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Plant collections in botanic gardens need to be correctly identified and documented to serve our goals of display, education, research, and conservation. At the Botanic Garden of Smith College we have maintained plant records since our founding. At first an index card file system was used to track register numbers, source, and location of each plant in the Lyman Conservatory and in the outdoor gardens and arboretum. In 1971 the numbering system was changed. Each plant is now assigned an accession number and qualifier, e.g., 10785*B, with the last two digits of the number reflecting the year it was accessioned. Accession numbers for plants existing prior to 1971 end in PA, e.g., 745PA. In the 1980s plant records were computerized (with our own custom-designed software). In 2000 our plant records were transferred into BG-BASE™, a plant collections management software system used by over 186 institutions in 30 countries, which enables use to track a variety of information about our plants.

The plants in our collection have labels that make excellent learning tools. In addition to common name, which may vary from place to place, each label displays the universally accepted scientific name, plant family, information on nativity, as well as the accession number with qualifier. At one time, labels were handwritten or hand embossed, but are now generated from our database system. Conservatory plants have PolyTherm ® labels (printed in-house) that also include a barcode, which represents the plant’s accession number and qualifier. This allows for inventories to be conducted using a hand-held scanner, from which the information is uploaded into our database. Plants in the outdoor collections have engraved anodized aluminum labels (also made in-house). Labels either hang from branches or are mounted on tree trunks. Larger plastic honorial, memorial or interpretive labels may also be found on select trees and plants in the Conservatory.

Below are examples of outdoor and indoor plant labels.

Outdoor Plant Label
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Indoor Plant Label
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Maps of the plant collection were originally created manually using Smith College campus maps. In 2002 a systematic approach to mapping the collections was begun using BG-Map, software specifically designed for botanical gardens. It works with AutoCAD to link our accessioned plants in BG-BASE to the Smith campus map. The locations of new plantings on campus are determined using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and hand held data collectors. After being uploaded into BG-Map, each plantís mapped location is verified and adjusted as necessary.

Access to Collections Data:
Access to information about our collections is available though an online searchable database supported by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in Scotland, which allows access to plant collections of 26 gardens in the U.S. and Europe, or you can search only plants at the Botanic Garden of Smith College. Our Visitor Touch Screen in the Lyman Plant House reception area enables visitors to locate mapped plants, memorial and honorial trees and benches, and print maps of their locations. In addition to finding particular plants, visitors can create their own campus tree tour and print a map.


©2009, The Botanic Garden of Smith College
Northampton MA 01063
(413) 585-2740

Smith College