The Morton Arboretum debuts online plants database

The search function allows people to view detailed records of the arboretum's past and present trees and plants.

April 21, 2011
Industry News

LISLE, Ill. – Visitors to The Morton Arboretum, researchers and horticulture professionals will find it much easier to access deeper, richer knowledge of the plants of The Morton Arboretum living collections and Herbarium, thanks to a sophisticated, new online plants database.

The Integrated Plants Database, located at, allows users to view records of arboretum trees and other plants, interactive collections map, images of pressed and living specimens, hardiness zone data and other information.

“This database is unique in the botanic garden community because it provides a single interface to navigate between the living collections and preserved Herbarium collections,” said Dr. Andrew Hipp, the arboretum scientist who led the database creation. The database integrates information about the arboretum’s living collections, which contain more than 220,000 trees and other plants, the dried plants in the Herbarium, which contains approximately 170,000 specimens of woody plants of the temperate zone, interactive mapping and plant images.

The system is a powerful tool for helping visitors plan how they will tour the arboretum and gain information about plants. For example, people planning a new garden this spring can download arboretum locations of the plants they are considering and their ages, and in some cases view images of their pressed leaves and fruits.

The database provides an important tool to researchers, as well. Climate change, for example, affects plant distribution ranges and flowering dates over time, and the database provides a ready access to a wealth of Herbarium collection data that goes back to the arboretum’s founding in 1922. Botanic garden professionals can search for diverse woody plant species from around the world that are being conserved here. Land managers can find crucial information on plant distribution and habitats to help them conserve and restore plant biodiversity.

Users can link to an interactive online map that indicates where the plant is located on the grounds, view images of pressed plant specimens collected from the grounds, and search for plants by the habitat or locality where they were collected. With a few clicks, users can find out when a particular species or a group of related species have been collected in flower or fruit.

Additionally, users can easily learn which arboretum plants were collected by Floyd Swink, Gerould Wilhelm, Ray Schulenberg, George Ware, and other top authorities of the Chicago region’s flora, and by famous plant explorers such as Joseph Rock, Edgar Anderson, Julian Steyermark, Ernest H. Wilson and others. The database also documents the arboretum’s collecting expeditions in North America and worldwide.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) provided The Morton Arboretum a $150,000 grant to develop the Integrated Plants Database.