If you are like me, you might be reading a magazine or watching television this winter when you see a new and interesting plant. Then, of course, you’ll wonder if Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is growing that plant.


An example page from a FloraFind entry

Well, did you know that you can search all of the plants in our collection from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone? You and everyone with access to the internet around the world can search all 82,000 plants in our collection through the FloraFind site. These 82,000 plants are spread over 3,400 accessions and 2,500 taxa. Our Plant Records Coordinator, Sharmon Provan, is constantly updating our records and mapping our plants to give you the most accurate access to the plants in our gardens. In 2012, we had more than 99,000 searches done on FloraFind from more than 68 countries! The easiest way to get to FloraFind is by clicking on the button in the lower right-hand side of our home page.

What FloraFind does is gives you access to our plant records database. Our plant records are stored in a database system developed especially for gardens called BG-Base. Sharmon enters every permanent plant that comes onto the CMBG site. We currently do not accession annuals because they are only on display temporarily, but this is something we can consider doing in the future as an interactive tour with an iPad or smartphone. Once Sharmon enters these plants into BG-Base, she makes labels for our staff to place with each plant. Each plant gets two labels: an accession label and a display label. The accession label is the little metal tag you see hanging from the plant. The display label is the green, plastic sign you see in front of each plant, showing you the name of the plant.

Sharmon mapping

Sharmon mapping with the Total Station - photo B. Freeman

The next step is for Sharmon to go out and physically map each plant. For this task, she uses a Nikon Total Station. The Total Station can pinpoint the location of each plant with an accuracy of within a few inches. Once she has the plants mapped with the Total Station, she transfers these points into BG-Map. This program is the mapping partner to BG-Base. BG-Map is what allows you to see where the plants are located in the gardens on the map.

The third and final component of this equation that enables you to see our plants from the comfort of your own home is FloraFind. This web portal gives you a peek into our plant records without having BG-Base or BG-Map. Of the gardens in the United States that currently utilize BG-Base and BG-Map, only three have the web portal to their accessions. Longwood Gardens has access through their Plant Explorer, Denver Botanic Gardens with their gardens Navigator, and of course, our FloraFind.

As you can tell from this brief description of the process, making our plants available to you online takes a lot of time, effort, and accuracy. Sharmon does a lot of the work with help from our staff, seasonal employees, and volunteers. If you are interested in helping us keep these records up to date as a volunteer, please let us know. We are always looking for folks to help with mapping and taking top-quality photographs of the plants so we can add them to FloraFind.

Most importantly, use Flora Find when you are looking for that special plant. Or take one of our predefined tours. And, of course, let us know what you think, as our plant record system is constantly being updated with more plants, pictures, and information as we continue to grow. – Rodney