Saturday, September 7, 2019

Plant-nerd technology that works: Huntington digital plant map

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently attended the 2019 Succulent Symposium at the Huntington in San Marino, CA. In contrast to my experience at similar events, every single presentation kept my attention, and I learned a great deal about plants with which I only had a passing familiarity or knew nothing about. 

I also found out a few things about the Huntington, including ambitious plans for the Chinese Garden and a new outdoor event area. But nothing surprised me more than finding out that the Huntington has been digitally mapping the plants in its collections and making the results available to, well, anybody and everybody. 

I suspect I might be the last one to hear about this, but in case I'm not, here's what I've gathered: As they walk the gardens, employees use portable devices (maybe simply their smartphone?) to send plant location data to the Huntington's online plant database. From http://plants.gardentour.net, you and I and the rest of the world has access to all the plants that have been captured so far. How cool is that?

Unfortunately, I didn't have this information when I walked through the Desert Garden the day before the Succulent Symposium, but I tried it out at home. Here's what the experience is like:

This is what you see when you get to http://plants.gardentour.net

Click the Search icon (magnifying glass) on the upper right and enter a plant you're interested in. Click the entries in the results list to see where each plant is located.

Click the Filter icon on the upper right, set the second toggle (“Enter partial name”) to on, and enter a plant name. The map now displays only that plant.

Filtering by species name is useful

Filtering by family name (first toggle), on the other hand, produces far too many results

While you're at the Huntington, you can also click the My Location icon on the left to see what plants there are at your current spot in the garden. This may prove to be the most useful feature during a visit. I can't wait to try it out the next time I'm there.


Be sure to bookmark the site on your smartphone: http://plants.gardentour.net



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13 comments:

  1. Now that's a cool way to id plants.

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  2. The intersection of gardening/plants in general and technology seems like it could be 'fruitful' (pun intended) I know there are Agtech companies out there doing neat things with GIS, computer vision or robotics - tho at a commercial level. I like the Huntington digital map because it's useful for the average consumer. I wonder what else would be useful/novel at a consumer level?

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    1. This solution kills two birds with one stone: The botanical gardens knows what plants they have and where they are, and visitors can look up plants that catch their eye.

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  3. So much info from those symposia, both from the stage and informally in just chit-chatting. No, I did not know about the digital map! Now I'm going to figure out what the big silver plant is planted among the grasses in front of the library, just off the rill...

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    1. Eucalyptus macrocarpa is there last I saw.

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    2. Yes, there are several Eucalyptus macrocarpa. You can see them from quite a distance!

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  4. I wouldn't mind having something like this for my own garden to keep track of plants. It would almost be kind of fun to manage. Probably overkill for a small garden like mine but in a larger collectors garden it might be a great tool.

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    1. I did a quick search but couldn't find anything comparable for personal use. Sure would be nice!

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  5. Useful I'm sure, but at the same time, people being glued to their phone in a botanic garden is...kinda sad.

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    1. Yeah, that would be depressing! But being able to quickly look up what a non-labeled plant is, that's both cool and useful, I think.

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