New tool for botanical gardens in Switzerland and France

Open source toolkit for botanical gardens based on concrete needs

Published on: 20/08/2021

Botanical gardens located in Switzerland and France have together developed an application consisting of microservices for documenting and sharing data among each other and potentially other gardens.

Photo by Chris Abney

Les Convervatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève (Conservatory and Botanical Garden of the city of Geneva, CJB) is a museum and an institution in Geneva, Switzerland. It took the initiative to a new open source toolkit, Botalista, which was finished in September 2020. It is meant to address all the needs of botanical gardens. The botanical gardens involved, in Paris, Bordeaux, Bern and Lausanne, required a robust, scalable, and adaptable application in multiple languages and accessible everywhere. It had to be an application where data could be shared between institutions without using spreadsheets.


Built from microservices

Initially, Botalista was made as a web application consisting of several modules (microservices) where each module was responsible for different functions in the work process. Now it is also working on different digital devices.

Botalista takes into account all the work processes related to the management of botanical collections: management of accessions (herbaria, seeds, living plants, etc.), management of botanical nomenclature and taxonomy, field collections, cultivated specimens, images and documents, ex situ and in situ conservation programs, localisation of cultivated specimens, flora programs, etc.

- Botalista’s website

Currently, the application is implemented in four botanical gardens, three in Switzerland and one in France. Another two in France are in the migration phase and on their way into the community.


Sharing data and code

The Botalista community is open in data and code. The botanical gardens involved can share and benefit from each other’s data and communication goes through a data sharing center. The data follows international standards for sharing of biological data.

A team from Botalista attended a workshop in 2019 along with World Flora Online. The idea behind the Botalista team’s participation was to define which functions are necessary to manage data to the World Flora Online. Data management is important to match the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity's Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

The Botalista toolkit has been up and running for 9 months now, but it is not the first app on the market for managing biodiversity information for botanical gardens. Other open source alternatives to manage a collection of botanical specimens are Bauble and Ghini.



Final take-aways

  • Botalista is an open source tool consisting of micro services for botanical gardens.
  • The project is new and is actively developing to soon consist of six members in Switzerland and France.
  • It was developed to meet international standards for data sharing, to replace spreadsheets, and to meet the needs of the initial three botanical gardens in the project.