Saturday, November 19, 2011

Plant Inventory Finished and Records Labels Arrive!

During the past month, I have been working on completing a thorough inventory of all the plants we have on the grounds.  As a museum with living collections, a botanic garden needs to not only record information about a plant upon its arrival but also continually evaluate the plant over time.  This is valuable not only because it allows us to know the current state of any of the plants in our collections, but also because we develop a history for each plant.  To give you an idea about what inventory entails, here is an example of a (completed) sheet I carry around with me to record information.  These sheets are created directly from our plant records database, BG-Base:

Once all the information is collected, I need to enter it into BG-Base, primarily into the "Plants" table of BG-Base.  Below are examples of some of the screens I work with when completing data entry:

^Location, number of plants, condition, flowering/fruiting stage and other notes go into this window of the Plants table.

^How complex the BG-Base window can get if I'm making edits across tables and performing queries, and yes, it's running on a Mac : )

BG-Base is a "relational" database, which means that there are many tables tied together so that data from one table can be displayed in fields of another.  While this is cool, it sure makes for a lot of work in terms of data entry and making sure the integrity of all the connections between tables are maintained whenever edits are made.  A large computer screen is definitely a BIG help.

On a related note, our records labels have finally arrived!  Records labels are a great help when it comes to keeping accurate track of the plants in our collections.  Each plant or mass of plants is a unique entity with all its information in our database, so it is crucial to accurately maintain this link, which is similar to the link our social security numbers provide from ourselves to information about us.  In both cases, if that link gets broken, it's bad news - the former being clearly far more serious a matter.  Our records labels include each plant's scientific Latin name, source, and accession number + qualifier - its "social security number."  This number allows me to double-check that the plant I'm looking at is the plant on my sheet I want to inventory and also acts as a key to access all the data we have for a given plant.  The labels are primarily useful to our Gardens' staff but horticulturists, botanists, serious gardeners and curious guests will all find them useful if they want to know more about a specific plant.  Here are a couple pictures of the glimmering labels (563 in total).  You can see parts of the stakes the labels are attached to in the second photo; they resemble a key chain ring attached to the top of a 6-inch metal stake.

Awesome, right?  Our table in the office reminded me of a drug-bust table with the lines and lines of these records labels I have out to be placed.  If plant labels ever became illegal, the authorities would certainly be able to put together an impressive presentation of all the labels they find after busting our notorious botanic garden operation.  I'll have to work on my buffness, though, if I'm to play the part of the bad dude behind the table with armed guards on either side.  With hopes that plant labels maintain legal status for the foreseeable future, I will be placing these labels by their corresponding plants over the next couple weeks - another big milestone in progress for our Botanic Gardens.

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director


  1. Remember, our gardens officially "opened on 3/21/11," just 9 months ago. We're right on target with our first year goals; our visitors are truly finding our tours unique and different, as well as informative and educational and our entire garden and hotel staff are finding the gardens both rewarding and challenging. Our Associate Director's blog, is proving to be entertaining, informative, and quite different from most garden blogs and I, for one, am enjoying it. Hope you are too. Joe Harris, Executive Director, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.

  2. Hello

    My name is marco antonio soto, looking for plants labeled methods, I have found your blog, I can see the great work you are doing with BG-Base, I have been lucky to handle and also to check each plant that reaches our garden as treatments you do, share your idea that it's nice to know the life history of each plant with us.
    I hope to keep in touch with you and your botanical garden

    1. Hi Marco, thanks for your comment! I am glad you have found my blog and that this post has been helpful to you; hopefully you will find some of the other posts of interest as well. I wish you the best of luck with your garden - where is your garden located and does it have any particular focus?