A visitor to the Washington Park Arboretum recently wondered if the “tuna” tree grew among its world class collection of woody plants. She asked a staff member who figured out she meant Toona sinensis, a hardy member of the mahogany family with bright pink new growth. “Yes, we have three specimens.” replied Laura Blumhagen, working at the reference desk in the Miller Library. “Where?” asked the visitor. Laura searched the brand-new interactive map, located the Toona trees and directed the visitor to the northwest corner of the Arboretum where Lake Washington curves around near the off ramp from State Route 520.
The online, interactive map identifies landmarks, trails, gardens and most importantly every woody plant growing in the Arboretum. It can be browsed or searched. Users can turn layers on and off, measure distances, draw a custom route and print out a custom map. Zooming into the map reveals thousands of green circles that represent trees and shrubs. Click on a circle to learn the plant’s name and other data related to that individual specimen.
UW Botanic Gardens Director, Professor Sarah Reichard, envisioned a system where public visitors could gain a deeper appreciation of the value of the collections and the story behind each tree, as well as improve management efficiency. “The integration of the existing database and new map has exceeded my expectations” said Dr. Reichard.
In August 2012 the University of Washington Botanic Gardens received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to survey the Arboretum and digitize paper inventory maps. That groundwork enabled the development of a geo-referenced database and a publicly accessible, interactive map. Prior to this project, the paper inventory maps were arduous to update, impossible to search and inaccessible to the public and most staff. Surveying the Arboretum with modern equipment and digitizing inventory maps increased the accuracy of plant location data and decreased the effort to locate plants. Staff management of the collection has improved because time spent searching for plants can now be used caring for them. Docents save time creating seasonal tours by searching the map for trees of interest. The map integrates not just location information, but data about the plant’s name, origin, native range, health condition and the id number for the pressed plant specimen in the Hyde Herbarium.
Articles and posts about the mapping project
Arboretum Bulletin article about the history of mapping at the Arboretum and how the interactive map was created.
IMLS grant funds geo-referenced, integrated database
In the Arboretum with the total station and other milestones
How would you use an interactive map in the Arboretum?
About the map and credits