Since its founding in 1872, Arboretum staff have utilized photography to help document the living plants the institution collects, grows, and preserves for scientific study and horticultural display. Thousands of historical images—captured by famed explorers like Ernest Henry Wilson, Joseph Rock, and Frank Meyer—have long been available for viewing and downloading through the Image Archives of the Harvard Libraries. Recently, the Arboretum made thousands of contemporary images of its plants—from Abelia chinensis (Chinese abelia) to Zenobia pulverulenta (honeycup)—available on its website. This extensive Plant Image Database serves everyone from botanists to armchair plant explorers as a free online tool to aid plant identification, connect plant images and plant information, and promote the study and appreciation of biodiversity.
TreeVersity will launch on Zooniverse with approximately 10,000 images in need of categorization by volunteers. Once the project is completed, the Arboretum’s Plant Image Database will have improved functionality as an educational resource and provide another important layer of documentation on the Arboretum’s renowned living collections. As a constantly developing resource for reference and discovery, the Plant Image Database will continue to develop as additional digital archives become available. “Our goal,” according to Arboretum Director William (Ned) Friedman, “is to share these images in classrooms, with garden clubs, and with all manner of plant lovers around the world to help advance a cure for the preventable human disease known as plant blindness.”