Plant Records Webinar – Kickstarting your plant records inventory

Waheed Arshad, PhD
May 19, 2023

Inventorying your collections at regular intervals is crucial to ensure that you have reliable plant records data. With unreliable records, your institution is unable to make informed decisions about your plant collections and the overall usefulness of your plant records is diminished. 

Our last webinar covered this important topic with three case studies from The Dawes Arboretum, Utrecht University Botanic Garden, and Tohono Chul. In this blogpost, we summarise our discussions on the importance of inventorying, the challenges faced in the process, and our top tips for kickstarting your inventory.

The four cornerstones of healthy plant records

Reducing the inventory gap: This constitutes minimising the time between changes occurring in your plant collections and when this is reflected in your plant records. Once this gap becomes too large, the reliability of the records lowers, as does the value of the investment you have made into record-keeping.

Taxonomy: Ensuring you are using the correct scientific names, spelled correctly, means your data can be utilised in a broader context. This may involve verifying your data when receiving your accessions, through to using existing taxonomic databases to help you during data input. This can greatly enhance collaboration and potential data exchange within the community.

Provenance: In a broader context, provenance refers to where your plants came from. It also encompasses the plant's source and collection details, which is particularly crucial for wild-collected materials. Knowing the specific origin and collection sites of such plants provides valuable insights that can later inform conservation actions and strategies.

Plant identification: While it may seem like an obvious aspect, ensuring the accuracy of plant identifications is fundamental. Without accurate identifications, the integrity and reliability of your inventory are compromised, potentially leading to erroneous conclusions, misinterpretations, and ineffective collection management decisions.

It can be argued that the inventory gap is the linchpin of good record keeping. Even with a high standard of accuracy on taxonomy, provenance and plant identification, a big inventory gap will have a significant impact on the reliability of your plant records. This is why we continue to focus on how we can improve inventorying workflows with Hortis. 

Challenges Faced in Inventorying

Inventorying plant collections comes with its own set of challenges, and our attendees shared some of their challenges in the session.

While time remains a significant factor, we cannot create more hours in the day! However, what we can do is enhance the efficiency of your inventorying tools, enabling you to accomplish more within the available time you have.

Many institutions struggle also with data gaps and incomplete or outdated records. Additionally, depending on your collection policy or data standards, the volume of data being collected and managed can be overwhelming.

Leveraging technology and innovative approaches plays a big part in maximising productivity and helping you to achieve your inventorying goals. By addressing these challenges, we can help to improve the accuracy of the data so that it can be relied upon.

Things to consider when kickstarting your inventory

When embarking on the journey of inventorying, there are several key considerations to keep in mind. From establishing clear objectives and implementing robust data collection frameworks, to standardising conventions and fostering staff training, these factors lay the foundation for a sustainable plant records inventory process at your institution.

During the session, we heard from Greg Payton, Martin Smit, and Juliana Ahumada as they discussed diverse strategies implemented at their institutions to conduct effective inventorying.

With Hortis, our aim is to facilitate the inventorying process and to help you become more efficient with managing your data, helping you bridge the inventory gap, and achieve accurate and up-to-date plant records. At the end of the webinar, we showed a demo of some of our approaches to this.

Whether you are new to collection management or an experienced collection holder, we hope you have gained valuable insights to enhance your inventory journey and unlock the full potential of your plant collection.

Share your journey with us in Fort Worth

Next month, we will be presenting at the annual American Public Gardens Association Conference. Join us to share your thoughts, and learn more about how we can help you with your plant records ambitions.

What would you like to discuss in our next webinar?

Do you have a plant records topic you would like us to cover? Feel free to get in touch with ideas for our next webinar in July.

As usual, this and other webinars from our series are available to view on our Youtube Channel.

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