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29 Jul 2018

All the Garden’s plants in the palm of your hand!

The Botanic Gardens are the first in Australia to implement a new technology which will allow visitors to find and identify plants with the use of a smartphone or tablet. It has been my dream since my recruitment as Director of Horticulture to find a way to better share our Living Collections with our visitors, and now we have it. 

Thanks to a generous donation last year from a charitable foundation we implemented a new Living Collections software package that not only has improved the data management of our amazing collections but also allows anyone to access general information, location and photos of our plants.

The software is called Garden Explorer and it's an interactive map of the plants in our Botanic Gardens that allows our Living Collections data to be available to researchers, students, staff, institutions, locals and tourists. This mobile-first website will allow our visitors to engage with our sites in a more in-depth way.

By using a PC, tablet or smartphone you can:

  • Search for specific plants and be guided to them.

  • Identify plants based on their location.

  • Explore the plant collection using the Garden Map.

  • Search for Garden features (statues, ponds, memorial benches, etc.).

  • Explore the plant collection by species names.

  • Look at photos of our plant collections.

  • Engage directly with all platforms of social media

  • Display Garden Tours, including a map of a selected tour.

    Search common names, genus, family or country of origin to find your favourite plant in the Garden.

See our Living Collections with Garden Explorer 

The most amazing part of this program is its ability to identity the plants near you when you are in one of our Gardens.  It’s as simple as following going to the Garden Explorer page, clicking on the map and then each plant near you will show up on your screen. Tap on the plant you are interested in and it will come up on your screen with a bit of general information including scientific and common name, plant family, distribution and a photo. If you are looking for specific plant just type the common name or select the scientific one you are searching for and Garden Explorer will show you where it is on site.

The real heroes of this new tool are the Horticulture Plant Records and mapping team; Benedict Lyte, Ignacio Czajkowski and Sophie Vella. They imported over 100,000 data points and 26,000 images to our new program. Also, during this time they have done a monumental amount of plant inventories and mapping. In the last year they have ground truthed and mapped over 1/3 of our total collection of 80,000 plus taxa. Many of which had never been checked in over 200 years.

Garden Explorer shows the location, image and information of the plants in the Garden.

More features to come!

Currently there are over 34,719 plant species currently mapped across our sites with more being added every day. The plant mapping and records team are able to map up to 300 plants in one day, so the sites will be constantly up to date. You can search plants by country, genus, common name or plant name.

This online database can be used for Horticultural Tourism, other institutions that require a plant cutting for genetic diversity, staff and other visitors wondering what plant they are viewing in the garden.

jimmy turner gabrielle upton garden explorer
Jimmy Turner and the Minister of Environment and Heritage Gabrielle Upton use Garden Explorer to identify plants.


By using GPS coordinates, we not only map plants but also dedicated benches and pavers, statues and other culturally significant spots and buildings around our Gardens. Phase two will also include trails such as ‘What’s Blooming’, the ‘Curators Trail’, ‘Historic Trees’ etc – the possibilities are endless!

Now that I have you all excited, I guess I should share the links for you to see for yourself. You can access any of these links on your smart phone, tablet or computer and explore our living collections for yourself. I would love to hear from you on Twitter @TexaninOZ!

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Australian Botanic Garden 
Blue Mountains Botanic Garden 

Category: Horticulture
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