UW Today

January 20, 2016

What’s the name of that tree? New interactive plant map for arboretum

News and Information

First-time visitors and regulars to Washington Park Arboretum can now learn the names and origins of plants as well as save favorites while strolling through the grounds.

A new interactive map for smartphones and tablets shows every plant and tree that’s part of the arboretum’s collection, now numbering more than 15,000. Visitors can pull up the map on their phones, locate themselves, then zoom in to see which plants are nearby.

sample maps

Click on image to enlarge.

Each colored dot displays details about the plant, including its scientific and common name, where it came from, images on Google and last-reported condition. The map also gives “accession” information, which means the year it was planted in the arboretum and, more specifically, the order in which it was planted in relation to other plants of the same year.

The online map first debuted two years ago but wasn’t optimized for mobile devices, said Tracy Mehlin, information technology librarian at UW Botanic Gardens who managed the project. Now, with a gift from the Northwest Horticultural Society, the map responds much more quickly in the field, she said.

The best part about having a digital, mapped library at your fingertips?

sample maps

Click on image to enlarge.

“I like the ability for people to save favorite plants,” Mehlin said. “They can do a search for certain plants and get a results list, or walk around and say, ‘that’s a fantastic tree’ and favorite it. Then they can come back a year later and find that same tree.”

The favorites lists are saved on the device and don’t require a login or registration to use the feature.

UW Botanic Gardens plans to create a similar interactive map for the plants at the Center for Urban Horticulture, north of the arboretum along Lake Washington. Staff members welcome talented students with an interest in GIS and plants to suggest improvements as the map gains more users.


For more information, contact Mehlin at tmehlin@uw.edu or 206-616-9481.