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Collection management


To manage identifications, nomenclature and background information of a plant collection as present in the Amsterdam Botanic Garden, one needs a wide range of resources that supply in-depth information. The botanic garden therefore houses a small library of up to 2,000 titles of floras, monographs and plant-related thematic literature. In addition, journals on specialised collections such as the South African flora or Cycads are used.

For accepted scientific names, the following three main resources are used:
Heukel’s flora van Nederland (2005), for the Dutch collection; the Kew’s World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP); and family, the The Plant List.

For information on the distribution of plant species on the globe, the above-mentioned WCSP is used. Plants that do not occur in this checklist, are checked with the help of several flora’s such as Missouri Botanic Garden’s eFlora’s. Additionally, information may be deduced from the data present in Gbif.

Data management

The botanical collection of Amsterdam counts up to 5,000 individual plants of some 4,000 species. All of these are registered in the botanical database. This allows us to track when a plant was accessioned, when it was originally collected, and by whom it was identified. Species information is included, such as native range, local names, and literature references. The data is constantly being expanded and improved by our staff and in cooperation with colleagues of other botanic gardens and institutions. The information supports the management of our botanical collections and is used to produce plant labels, to give the collection scientific value and to help the garden comply with international laws and regulations on the exchange of plant material.

Also, the database simply tells us which species are present in the garden and where they can be found. The inventory of plants can be consulted online through our Garden Explorer. Keeping the inventory of plants up-to-date is a major challenge in any botanic garden. To enable fast end regular stocktaking, the Hortus developed the use of barcodes in living collection record keeping. This is described in Sibbaldia, Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture, number 14.

To make optimal use of the collections data, a robust and user-friendly software package is required. As of January 2013, we are using IrisBG for this purpose. The program is developed especially for botanic gardens and combines the functionality needed for scientific collections management with solutions for practical issues such as mapping, mobile record taking and institutional plant exchange. In spite of the extensive options available, the software remains easy to use for our staff. IrisBG is used in over a hundred botanic gardens worldwide.  In the Netherlands, it is used in Amsterdam Botanic Garden, Belmonte ArboretumRotterdam zooPaleis het LooHistoric garden of AalsmeerDelft university Botanical GardenBurgers’ zoo and the Hortus botanicus Leiden.

Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is an official reference garden for IrisBG. Organisations interested to learn about the functioning of this database software can contact de Hortus. On April 15, 2016, the first European IrisBG-User Conference was held in Amsterdam. For a summary of this event, see the website of IrisBG.

Seed list

Since 1804, the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam issues a seed list or Index Seminum. Seeds are exchanged with over 400 botanic gardens and institutes worldwide, for research and education. Our seeds are collected in gardens and greenhouses, as well as in the wild. A special feature of our seed list is in situ collected material from the Amsterdam urban environment (native or naturalised) and the coastal zones of The Netherlands.

Seed exchange is open to non-profit gardens and institutes that offer plant material for exchange in return. Please register with the curator beforehand. Orders may be placed from the publication of the index seminum in December or January, until 15 march.

Please note that international regulations preclude private individuals from ordering seeds at the Botanic Garden. For peculiarities and indigenous species we refer to specialised growers or retailers.

At the 2015 European conference for Botanic Gardens in Paris, the curators of Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam and the Botanic Garden of Oslo, together with representatives of eighteen other European botanic institutes (see map), discussed how seed exchange between botanic gardens can be improved using modern information technology.

The results of this discussion were published on 3 May 2016 in Taxon 65(2), journal of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy.