With Spring in the air, Stellenbosch University's Botanical Garden launched the multilingual Garden Explorer-webpage on Friday, 4 September. This explorer enables visitors to use their mobile devices to locate plants in the garden and get more information about those species.
With almost 100 years of written records in books and field notes, the Botanical Garden decided to digitalise its records in 2013. IrisBG, the modern database the Garden implemented, not only keep record of plants, but can also map individual plants within a couple of centimetres.
It is precisely this information and mapping that is used by the Garden Explorer, one of the components of the database, to make the Garden more accessible to the public.
Over the last two years the database itself has been a big asset for researchers, since they can now update records fast and effectively using their mobile devices or barcode scanners while working in the garden. Researchers can also easily extract data from the system to do more complex analyses, and it also helps with the day to day management of the Garden.
"But what makes the Garden Explorer component's launch exciting, is its link with the public and the opportunities it offers for the training of students," said Mr Martin Smit, Curator of the Botanical Garden.
"This new component unlocks selected information for the public, among which the exact location of plants and it makes it possible for visitors to explore the garden on their own. Plant lovers can use their own mobile devices to access information, or they can use the information point at the Botanical Garden."
Though the IrisBG system is quite commonly used, SU's Botanical Garden is the first of its kind in South Africa to use the Garden Explorer, and the first in Africa to make it available in more than one language.
Prof Wim de Villiers, SU's Rector and Vice-Chancellor, said the Garden Explorer is an example of the innovative culture at Maties. "The Curator has provided details of how research is supported here, how learning by students and school learners takes place and how community engagement takes place, he said.
"We are very proud of our Botanical Garden – not just because it is old and beautiful and serene, but because of the valuable contribution it makes to our core functions – research, learning & teaching, social impact," Prof De Villiers added.
The Botanical Garden is located in the historical centre of Stellenbosch and is the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa. This compact Garden houses more than 2300 plants species, both indigenous to South Africa and exotic. The Garden, the Katjiepiering Restaurant and the shop, is open seven days a week from 08:00 -17:00. Entrance is free.