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Lathyrus odoratus 'Senator'

Plant recording gets a boost with the relaunched Persephone database

30th June, 2022

Plant Heritage has recently launched a top-class plant records system, Persephone. This helps National Collection Holders in managing their invaluable plant records, and helps the charity as a whole to store key information about all plants in our conservation schemes – the Plant Guardians, Plant Exchange and Desiderata (plants sought by Collection Holders).  
 
Excellent plant records are vital to holding a National Plant Collection. They tell us about the plant, its history, growth, nomenclature changes, its physical location, pictures, research articles and much more. Keeping this information together and accessible but secure is of huge importance in our conservation work.

More than 300 collections and proposed collections have their records on the online system, which was originally designed specifically for collection holders. Over the past year, the Persephone admin team has worked with developers to produce a new version, which is powerful and flexible enough to deal with different types of collection but is straightforward to use.  

New key features added. Some of these include the ability to map accessions found in the wild, a search tool that can range across all data fields, improved image storage and enhanced ways to deal with synonyms, hybrids and plant name changes.  
 
The advantage of flexibility. Managing dispersed collections held by many people is one example – in Sussex, a group holding a Collection are uploading images and information about the plants that they keep and  track the difference in flowering time across the county. Our Plant Guardians can use Persephone to add pictures and information about their individual plants, and see information and pictures that others may have shared. A horticulture college is now using it as part of their teaching programme, allowing students to gain experience in managing collection records and mapping plants. 

Looking to the future. Collection Holders can permit Plant Heritage to retain access to their records when they retire. These become an invaluable record of a lifetime of plant knowledge and a resource for future collections.   
 

Video overview of some key features

Increasing our conservation impact. The conservation team needs to know which plants are in our conservation schemes. Is the number of taxa increasing or declining? Which plants are rare and are they kept safe within collections or with Plant Guardians? Without having collection records in one searchable database, we cannot monitor our conservation work effectively. 

The upgraded system means Plant Heritage has a robust plant records system that will support both collections and our conservation team in the future. With the help of a recent grant from the National Lottery, we are now embarking on a programme to work with collection holders who have not yet put records on to the system which in turn increases our conservation impact. 
 
To find out more, see the Persephone page on our website. 

Conserving the diversity of garden plants

eg: plant genus, common name, county, collection holder name.