Your Editorial “The constant gardeners” (Nature 440, 845; 200610.1038/440845a) calls for closer cooperation between botanical gardens to integrate information about plants and make it accessible to all botanists. One such project, PlantCollections, is already under way. PlantCollections links the databases of 16 botanical gardens across the United States, using distributed queries on the Web. This approach allows organizations to keep their own database formats while sharing information. It uses software that translates an Internet query into the unique formats used by each of the 16 botanical gardens, collates the results and presents them to the user as a single document. The application is inexpensive to deploy and easy to maintain, so additional gardens can be added with minimal costs.
Information about living plant collections, herbarium specimens, long-term stored seeds, DNA samples and image holdings within each institution is shared in PlantCollections in a format that everyday gardeners as well as research scientists can understand. A list of participating botanical gardens and arboreta will be available at www.publicgardens.org. Further information on joining the project can be obtained from the author.