The University of Oxford and the Royal Horticultural Society are undertaking a project together to make information about plants more accessible and available.

Any one cultivated plant can be known by many names. For example, Acer has over 1600 cultivars, with over 2000 different Latin names associated with them. This variety of names can create confusion.

In collaboration with Denis Filer and Andrew Liddell of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, the Royal Horticultural Society has begun to counter this confusion through their use of the BRAHMS database system. This software was originally developed over decades to deal with biodiversity research, taxonomic revision and natural history collection management. It has now been adjusted to manage the complexity of managing and displaying all the cultivated plant names typically encountered by gardeners.

Professor R. George Ratcliffe, Head of the Department of Plant Sciences, said: “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 and collection data.”

BRAHMS will rank the various names a plant has to determine which name should be used at various times, as well as supplying data to an enhanced RHS website.

Dr Philippa Christoforou, BRAHMS Licensing Lead at Oxford University Innovation, said: “Working with the RHS and applying BRAHMS as its database management system is great news for the gardening community. We are excited to share the new naming system with all BRAHMS users across the botanical world.”

Sian Tyrrell, RHS head of horticultural information, 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 Stephen Harris, Druce Curator of Oxford University Herbaria, said: “BRAHMS is the product of long-term commitment by the Department of Plant Sciences to releasing the research potential of the data contained in botanical collections. The adoption of this software by the RHS affirms BRAHMS’s significant role in the management, analysis and security of global botanical data.”

Image credit to Tejvan Pettinger.

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