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Arnold Arboretum publishes field-checking manual for living plant collections

6 January 2010

The vagaries of a living plant collection require that botanic garden staff keep a very watchful eye on the objects they curate.  Unlike a static museum collection, Harvard’s Tree Museum is dynamic:  the objects grow, they may go missing, they may drift in location (think of a mass of shrubs advancing as they layer-in and expand), they may change quickly, they require observation, and their labels often wander and need replaced.

These and other realities mean that in order to have a collection where the plants are accurately mapped, labeled, identified and measured, the landscape must be frequently inventoried and each and every plant has to be skeptically reviewed.  In writing the first edition of the Manual, the curatorial team did not want to simply describe current Arboretum procedures.  Instead, they embarked upon a thoughtful review of their present practices, made a number of adjustments, and as a result set an even higher standard.

Some items that Michael Dosmann (co-author of the manual and Curator of Living Collections) believes other public garden staff may find of particular value include:

1.  The Arnold Arboretum's philosophy on inventorying the collection (pp 1-3).

2.  General and specific workflows for all indoor and outdoor tasks (throughout).

3.  Updated definitions for evaluation of condition/plant health (pp 11-12).  Because innumerable members of staff use terms such as ‘good’ or ‘poor’ in describing plant performance, Arboretum staff recognized the need to standardize the definitions and minimize evaluator bias to the greatest extent possible.

4.  Label Source Guides and Standards (Appendix F).

 To read the Manual, point your browser to:


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