New Innovative Plant Data Management

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has teamed up with the University of Oxford to make information about plants more readily available to everyone with an interest in gardens and garden plants.

The charity’s passion for inspiring everyone to grow is grounded in practical science and the RHS has dedicated itself to ensuring that the information about plants made available to the public is comprehensive and accurate.

The vast amount of plants available to buy today is astounding – take the Acer (pictured below) for example, which has over 1600 cultivars on the database, with over 2000 different Latin names associated with them, shows the challenges facing gardeners.

The charity has sought to alleviate this by guiding gardeners to find the plants they want by bringing together the multifarious names plants are known by and making them searchable via their online database ‘Find a Plant’. So, whether you are searching for Alchemilla mollis, or Lady’s Mantle, (pictured banner above) the RHS will help you find it via their online database.

Now, in conjunction with Denis Filer and Andrew Liddell at Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, the RHS has developed a novel approach to managing the complexity of plant names using the BRAHMS database system which has been developed over the past 25 years for natural history collection management.

This software package has now been adapted to manage the complexity of all the cultivated plant names we encounter and over the coming months, the RHS and Oxford University will be working to roll out this new system across the RHS’ names data herbarium and garden collections as well as using it to supply data to an enhanced RHS website.

The system will rank the various names a plant has in order to determine what name should be used at what time and closely aligns to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ISH 2016). It will be available to all BRAHMS uses in future releases.

RHS Head of Horticultural Information Sian Tyrrell said: “This is an exciting time for horticultural information management at the RHS and with the support of colleagues at Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, accessibility and usability of our plant data is coming to the fore.

Our charity is driven by our desire to support our members and the wider gardening community. The investment put into this new system will greatly benefit everyone and ensure that gardening becomes more accessible and enjoyable.”

Professor R. George Ratcliffe, Head of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, points out that the department has nurtured the development of BRAHMS over many years and its adoption by the RHS is a wonderful endorsement of the power of the tool for managing botanical names.

Dr Philippa Christoforou, BRAHMS Licensing Lead at Oxford University Innovation says that working with the RHS and applying BRAHMS as its database management system is great news for the gardening community. We think so too and feel sure it will be a ground-breaking initiative.


Picture credit: Images ©RHS