In 1995 the Western Australian Herbarium began a volunteer-coordinated effort to construct a collection of photographs of every known Western Australian plant in their natural habitat. With the help of the community, this goal is steadily approaching.
The photographs presented in Florabase are composites made from slides, prints, negatives and digital images donated to the Herbarium by over 400 amateur and professional photographers. When a photographer’s image is used in a composite, their name always appears in the final image.
The project differs from other image catalogues in one particular area: the name of the subject of every photograph—the plant’s name—is checked for accuracy. We can do this because we have access to expert plant systematists both at the Herbarium and worldwide. Furthermore, this happens semi-automatically if a specimen of the subject was taken after it was photographed. We call this specimen a voucher. Over 7,442 composites consisting of one or more photographs are available for viewing in Florabase. There are over 95,090 photographs in the collection.
How did we do it?
A team of volunteers import donated photographs into the application that manages our Image Collection and assign a name to the subject of the photo. This name may be different from the one suggested by the photographer, or it may be changed later based on other information that tells us the name originally used no longer applies to a Western Australian plant.
Our volunteers then prepare a composite photograph illustrating the plant’s floral features, habit and habitat ready for use in Florabase. They then check the finished composite for:
- representativeness — the colour, shape and size of the subject shows the species in its most common form. This is especially relevant when there are many minor variants to a species.
- quality — the photographs that make up the composite are all of a sufficiently high photographic quality. Some of our older composites need to be replaced, as we have raised our standards over the years as we have access to so many photos.
- textual correctness — the plant name and the names of each photographer in the caption are spelled correctly.
Current and former members of the team: Jack Abbott, Pauline Baker, Harold Bennett, Douglas Clifford, Scott Coad, Lynette Davies, Peter Davies, Maureen Edwards, Ray Edwards, Ella Fagence, Janet Harding, Jennifer Hawkes, Alison Hearn, Jean Hooper, Anne Ireland, Bill Johnson, Suzie Lintern, Kim Macey, Kath Napier, Hung Ky Nguyen, Ken Richardson, Adele Rogers, Leah Segal, Kim Spence, Joan Start and John Smith.
Things are changing
In the future we will greatly increase the number of images presented in Florabase. The original images, some used in our composites, will be presented alongside the composites with photographer and copyright information. An application built for the purpose of managing the Image Collection is now being used daily to update the collection in preparation for this change.
We can simplify the task of validating the name of the subject of the photograph if a specimen is lodged in the Herbarium. This voucher receives a plant name and attention from scientists, and the name that the voucher receives is the one we use to label photographs in the Image Collection. If the name is changed later for some reason—perhaps an expert has cleaned up a misunderstood section of the tree of life—we change the name of the photos in the collection.
Our policy on access to Florabase photos and our Image Collection is available in our Copyright Statement.
While the Western Australian Herbarium makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of images presented on Florabase, erroneously identified photographs do sometimes creep in. We make no representation as to the accuracy of the photographs presented here, and you use them at your own discretion and risk. Please contact us if you believe that a photograph is incorrect.