One particular interest of mine is garden mapping, especially when gardens have plant collections, information and interesting landscape features to share. Here is a preliminary list of interactive garden maps. Thanks go to members of the Alliance for Public Gardens GIS for suggesting some of the links on their active LinkedIn group. I’m keeping check of a few more links that do not seem to be ‘live’ yet and will be added in due course. If you have any additions for the list, please get in touch…
Plant collection maps:
The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Collection Researcher
A flash-based, feature-rich botanical offering with powerful search and layer controls as a front-end to their collections database (using the ArcGIS Public Gardens Data Model). Text exports of plant records (as CSV tables) and PDF map creation. Definitely one for a professional audience rather than casual garden visitors. More info on the open-source template here.
Longwood Gardens’ Plant Explorer, Denver Botanic Gardens’ Gardens Navigator, and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ FloraFind
Grouped together here, as they are all built upon the BG-Map botanical garden mapping system and offer similar functionality, the garden maps link well-illustrated plant records, garden features and highlight seasonal garden tours recommended by gardens staff. A good balance for garden visitors and those wanting greater details. Works well on an iPhone and is location aware (unfortunately I’m not able to test this in the gardens!). Lack of layer controls mean plants often dominate the maps at high zoom levels.
Westonbirt Arboretum Interactive Map
Coming from a slightly different approach, the Westonbirt map appears to be much more like a public-facing GIS system than the other examples. Grid squares, accession numbers and map symbology are the same as the in-house system used by the arborists and volunteers in the management of the plant collection. Plant records returned are simple and luckily there is a help page for the range of tools available.
UC Davis Arboretum Collection Maps
Also using a GIS approach is the UC Davis Arboretum collection map based on ESRI solutions. With a detailed user guide, search abilities with PDF map export, the map is full-featured. Trees and mass plantings of shrubs can be queried. Path surface grades and amenities such as benches and waste bins are all included.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Coinciding with Kew Gardens’ creation of a tree-top walkway, Kew has a simple flash-based tree map of the gardens. The plant map highlights a small part of their plant collections. Interaction is rather unintuitive compared to the other examples: click on a map pin, see what plant it represents, then get the option to show other related trees on the map and access plant information. The rest of their collections can be queried through a text-based database. Kew has a long history of electronic plant records and has many custom databases running behind the scenes, including their collaboration with Missouri Botanical Garden on The Plant List.
Kew, however, also offers Android and iOS based apps highlighting garden features and plants of the season. The app content mainly focuses on visitor information and utilises QR codes for linking to information on Kew’s plant collections.
Garden feature maps:
Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Using Google maps for interaction, this map lists all the main garden areas. A simple pop-up gives details on the areas, highlighting plants of interest, with a link to static pages elsewhere on the garden’s website.
The New York Botanical Garden
Another flash-based map, especially catering for urban garden visitors, using a detailed illustration on the garden as its backdrop. Garden wi-fi hotspots are included in the categorised coloured map pins. Control of the map is via click-button controls as typical web map controls (scroll wheel/click to zoom) do not work.
It’s great to see how many gardens are getting their collections and features ‘out there’ using interactive maps so far. At present, most of these examples are based upon proprietary software solutions and are best used as onsite ‘kiosks’ or browsed on desktop computers, with the notable exceptions of the three BG-Map based systems and Cambridge Botanic’s Google based map. It will be interesting to see how many gardens, like RBG Kew, move on from web-based maps and those like the National Trust who move straight into mobile ‘app’ based systems for their visitors.