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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


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.

Access & Benefit Sharing

RBGKew, IPEN and BGCI developed this online resource to demystify "access and benefit-sharing" between botanic gardens around the world. Much of the work of botanic gardens and herbaria depends on gaining access to and exchanging new plant material. ABS is about ensuring benefits are shared fairly.


Living Collections

Living collections are a particular group of plants (e.g. a taxonomic group, or a regionally-themed group) grown as a key part of botanic gardens.


BGCI PlantSearch Database
The BGCI plant search allows you to research plants in living collections all around the world. It gives cross-referenced information with Red Data Lists, plant images, the International Plant Names Index, Crop Wild Relatives, and the Tree Conservation Database.
Target 8: Conserving Threatened Plants and Restoring Plant Diversity
Designed for anyone who is in a position to contribute to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, this PDF leaflet is intended to raise awareness about Target 8 of the GSPC. Free to download and print yourself, or you can contact BGCI to discuss distribution of large batches.