Botanic Gardens Conservation International
BGCI provides a global voice for all botanic gardens, championing and celebrating their inspiring work. We are the world's largest plant conservation network, open to all. Join us in helping to save the world's threatened plants.

Information Management Systems for Living Collections

Living collections need to be supported by information management systems in the garden that provide a plant monitoring and plant recording system.

Plant Recording & Monitoring

Plants in cultivation need to be correctly identified and documented, if they are to be useful for conservation. This can be done manually with ledgers, index cards, completing forms, horticultural notebooks, etc. and has been revolutionised by the use of computers.

Keeping records of plants gives “added value”. Not only are plants grown, but in addition, relevant information, once acquired, is put down on a structural basis, thereby adding to the value and importance of the plant collection. Thus, the plant collection moves away from being merely ornamental to being a commodity to be used for various means. It is the combination of plants and the relevant information about these plants that differentiates the botanic garden from a public park, or a nursery’s demonstration garden. Record keeping therefore is one of the key activities which constitute the essence of a botanic garden.

National databases of plants in cultivation have also been developed as part of a national conservation strategies in conjunction with national Floras and Red Lists. Use of the International Transfer Format for Botanic Garden Plant Records (ITF) has facilitated the exchange of data on botanic garden plant collections in electronic form. Labelling provides the link between the living material and the electronic plant record.

A review: Plant Record Keeping in 2003

Examples of National Databases of Plants in Cultivation

Labelling

Without labelling, recording the contents of a collection can be nearly impossible, and so keeping the collection becomes pointless!

Exchange of Data

In 1987, BGCI published the International Transfer Format for Botanic Garden Plant Records (ITF) to facilitate the exchange of data on botanic garden plant collections in electronic form. The ITF quickly became a recognised international standard for botanic garden record systems. A second version of the ITF (ITF2) was completed and launched in 1998.