These resources cover a wide range of horticulture and gardening topics, including related botanical and agricultural fields: academic institutions, professional associations, and enthusiast organizations—especially those that provide free, publicly accessible databases and library catalogs. Networking and social activities are of significant importance within the horticulture—these many groups and websites offer you choices as to how and where you can participate in order to enhance both your LIS and subject experience. I categorized the groups based on geography:

These resources would help you answer the following questions as a reference librarian:

  • Which websites, OPACs, and public databases do I need to be aware of that contain horticultural information, or related fields like botany?
  • Which organizations would help me find and learn about California horticulture, in particular?
  • What are the closest horticultural organizations near me?
  • What are recent trends and newsworthy projects in horticulture, garden design, and relevant botany research?
  • By becoming familiar with these organizations' services, you know better how to search and browse through them when patrons ask for help—as well as know where to look for additional, publicly accessible online resources.
  • If you have or develop an interest in horticulture, many of the societies listed here provide excellent opportunities for networking and further learning.

Again, please keep in mind that resources not based in California—at least in name—still provide information on Californian topics when you use geographic terms in your research—i.e., California, Western United States, etc., depending on the controlled vocabulary of the service. You might also refer to the tips on the Home page to help focus your research.

OPACs: The following organizations have publicly accessible library catalogs. Although most are generally non-circulating or closed collections, using these offer opportunities for collection development or outreach.

  • Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden Library
  • Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
  • San Francisco Botanic Garden at Strybing Arboretum: Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: Blaksley Library
  • Smithsonian Gardens and Libraries

Databases: The following organizations have publicly accessible digital repositories or databases containing horticultural and/or botanic information.

  • Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • Calflora
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • California Native Plant Society
  • PLANTS Database
  • San Francisco Botanic Garden at Strybing Arboretum
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: Blaksley Library
  • Smithsonian Gardens and Libraries
  • UC Davis
  • University and Jepson Herbaria

Organizations in California


1700 Shattuck Avenue #198, Berkeley, CA 94709

Calflora is a non-profit organization that maintains a public database of "wild California plants for conservation, education, and appreciation." It contains over 10,000 plant species (both wild and introduced); over 800,000 observation records; 30,000 cross references among plant names made by authorized scientists; and hundreds of thousands of plant photos from the UC Berkeley CalPhoto database. This is a great resource for finding a plant's distribution within a particular location, elevation, and ecological community—a means to share botanical data among citizen scientists, students, and researchers. In other words, you can develop an understanding of where certain plants are likely to be found, thrive, or are at risk. Such ecological knowledge will aid in you in selecting appropriate horticulture (and botanical) materials for the library.

California Academy of Sciences (Cal Academy): Botany Department & Library at the Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability (IBSS)

Botany Department:
Research Library:

55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118
Botany Department: 415.379.5361
Library: 415.379.5484

Cal Academy, while known to the general public as a natural history museum remodeled by the famed architect Renzo Piano, has been a large scientific facility (Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability, IBSS) since 1853. It performs research, conducts expeditions, and has a multitude of collections. Being the first natural history research organization in the Western United States (US), Cal Academy has become one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

Since 1893, the Botany Department has collected over 2 million specimens for the Dudley Herbarium—the largest in the Western US, and the sixth largest collection in the nation. 95% of the collection consists of vascular plants, and the remaining 5% ferns and bryophytes. The Botany Department runs several projects, including digitizing the California botany collection in partnership with the California Consortium of Herbaria (CCH, described under the University and Jepson Herbaria). Additionally, there are three botany collections relevant to California plants:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW): Botanic Gardens, Seed Banks & Herbaria

This handy page has links to botanic gardens, seed banks, and herbaria that have worked with CDFW to collect, record, and protect plant specimens "that are designated as threatened or endangered pursuant to the California Endangered Species Act." This helpful state government resource will inform you on CDFW conservation efforts with horticultural and botanic organizations, such as the CNPS below.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA): Plant Health & Pest Prevention Services

The CDFA service complements the CDFW by providing pest and disease management for both agriculture and gardening. It also monitors foreign pests and environmental impacts of insecticide usage. This site will help you find information on issues such as bee population health, quarantined regions, and other relevant programs. This department also shares data at the CCH.

California Native Plant Society (CNPS)

Since 1965 CNPS's mission has been to protect the native plants of California, as well as their habitats. The society has about 10,000 members within 34 regional chapters. Any person interested in California plants, or gardens whose designs and plants sustain a Californian ecology, will find important resources, tips, and activities in this society. CNPS also maintains the Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of California, a database that displays timely data and research on at-risk native plants. The society shares its research, often involving citizen scientists, with academic and government institutes, such as the CCH and CDFW—and participates in legislation that aims to protect flora and the environment. In addition, CNPS publishes the journal Fremontia triannually:

Free online access to past issues except for the current year. Print journals ($5 to $10 each) and memberships are available for purchase ($25 for individuals, $75 for institutions).

California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG)

Having existed since 1968, CRFG "is the largest amateur fruit-growing organization in the world," especially concentrating on edible plants considered exotic or challenging to grow at home. If you ever wondered how it is possible to grow a fruit that you tasted in another climate or country, this is the society for gaining and disseminating that knowledge. CRFG has regional activities, including fruit-tasting fairs, and maintains a seed bank and Q&A forum. Additionally, the society publishes Fruit Gardener, a bimonthly magazine:

Price based on membership fees, ranging from $25 (electronic only) to $1,100 for a lifetime membership.

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden Library

301 North Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91007

One of the greatest botanic gardens in the world, the Arboretum was founded in 1947, and focuses on the plants and climate of Southern California. Its library was established in 1948, and concentrates on Southern Californian flora and horticulture—the library holds over 30,000 books (18,000 in open stacks), 250 ongoing periodicals (plus 300 older, out of print ones), and a collection of over 200 nursery catalogs. Moreover, the library maintains online exhibits as well as an OPAC.

Pacific Horticulture

Pacific Horticulture, which produces the eponymous magazine, is the largest gardening society in the Western US. It serves as the umbrella organization for four popular horticultural societies in California that promotes horticultural education and practices through networking, local events, and tours.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG)

1500 North College Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711

In addition to having the 10th largest herbarium in the United States and 3rd largest in the west, RSABG has a comprehensive botanic and horticulture library and archives. RSABG is one of the world's leading botanic research centers, including resources on California native plants—the celebrated garden has over 2,000 native taxa—and a seed bank for conservation work. Its herbarium has over 1.1 million specimens that are accessible through the CCH. The library holds about 50,000 books, and 750 print and electronic journals. It is also searchable by selecting Rancho Santa Ana BG Library from the Location dropdown menu list on the Claremont Colleges' Library OPAC.

RSABG also publishes Aliso: A Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, a Biannual open access journal. Older issues up to the previous year are available free online. Annual for the print version range from $50 to $80b

San Diego Natural History Museum (Nat): Botany Department

1788 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101

Established in 1874, the Nat is oldest natural history museum in Southern California, and has a large botanic research center. The Botany Department's Herbarium holds almost 250,000 specimens (containing over 400 type specimens) that focus on flora from Southern California—its holdings are also searchable through the CCH. In addition, the Botany Dept. runs several programs that concentrate on San Diego County plants, such as the San Diego County Plant Atlas Project and the San Diego County Vascular Plant Checklist—both great resources for horticulture and native plant enthusiasts and researchers.

San Francisco Botanical Garden (SFBG) at Strybing Arboretum: Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture

1199 9th Avenue, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94122
415.661.1316, extension 403

The SFBG is a horticulturist's dream to visit: 55 acres of gardens in Golden Gate Park containing over 8,500 taxa from California and around the world; the website also has a Plant Finder that catalogs over 49,000 plants that have been or are currently in the gardens. Its horticulture library has friendly librarians who assist patrons with a wide variety of research and hobbyist questions over the phone, via email, and in person. Its holdings consist of 27,000 books and 350 journals, which includes a 1,600 volume children's botanic collection. While generally non-circulating, the library has an OPAC you can search.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG): Blaksley Library

1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara CA 93105
805.682.4726, extension 107

The oldest botanic garden in Central California, the SBBG started in the 1920s with the support of the Carnegie Institution—now it covers 78 acres with 1,000 California plant taxa. Its mission is to collect and preserve California plants: To that end, its Herbarium holds about 150,000 specimens accessible through the CCH. Founded in 1927, the Blaksley Library has diverse materials:

University and Jepson Herbaria at University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)

1001 Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, CA 94720
University Herbarium: 510.642.2465
Jepson Herbarium: 510.643.7008

The University and Jepson and Herbaria house some of the world's largest plant collections and databases. Since 1895, the University Herbarium's has collected species from around the world. By comparison, the Jepson Herbarium has focused since 1950 on the collection of California vascular plants. They provide indispensable resources for librarians, students, researchers, and enthusiasts in nearly all plant-related fields! Not only does this academic institution publish authoritative books on California botany, most notably The Jepson Manual, it maintains multiple digital respositories actively used by horticulturists, botanists, gardeners, and the agricultural community. UC Berkeley has over a dozen plant databases, but the following would be of particular interest to librarians serving horticulture students and researchers:

  • Jepson eFlora: This is effectively an online version of The Jepson Manual, but with more frequent and recent updates—a crucial tool for California plant identification.
  • Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH): CCH contains rich data from the state government, universities, museums, and other non-profit organizations involved in California horticulture, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. This consortium has over 30 California horticulture and botanic contributors. Trustworthy places like Cal Academy, the Huntington Library and Gardens (near Pasadena, CA), Los Angeles County Arboretum, and UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, are digitally housed here.
  • Herbaria Type Specimens: Digital collections of the herbaria's type specimens. California and other North American vascular plants are listed in a single, long (1.4MB) page, so it is not user friendly—but the links to high resolution photographs are informative and beautiful.
  • Jepson Interchange: This may be considered a niche tool, but is crucial when you need authoritative names for California vascular plants—scientific names cross referenced with common names—as such controlled vocabulary is important to library research. The Interchange also focuses on floristics, which studies the relation between plant populations and geography.

UC Davis: Department of Plant Sciences

Formed under one of the most recognized agricultural universities, the Department of Plant Sciences has several programs that concentrate on horticulture; urban ecology; many fruit, flower, and nut studies; plant diversity and conservation; and more. Furthermore, the Dept. maintains the UC Davis Herbarium as part of the Center for Plant Diversity—a vast set of resources you will find useful for patrons:

  • Collections with over 300,000 specimens, especially California plants, searchable through CCH, and JSTOR for type specimens.
  • Several regional plant lists and floras, quite useful for botanic education and field research.
  • While not part of the Plant Sciences Dept., UC Davis also has a digital collection of Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation, an archive of the historical processes of ornamental landscapes.

UC Master Gardener Program

This state-wide program is the definitive resource for home gardeners, with a focus on sustainable, ecologically friendly, and water conservative practices. The Master Gardener Program has regional chapters based on county; each chapter offers local activities and forums that are excellent at providing advice and networking. For instance, Santa Clara County Master Gardeners offers helpful monthly tips by email, as well as online and phone support. This program provides great opportunities to embed yourself for library outreach and education. In addition, the program offers many online resources:

  • California Garden Web, an advice blog maintained by the University of California for horticulturists and home gardeners throughout the state.
  • California Backyard Orchard, another UC site that supports and sustains the Californian tradition of home orchards and food production.
  • Integrated Pest Management program that educates hobbyists and horticulturists on pests and diseases, and promotes environmentally friendlier solutions.

National and international organizations

AGRICOLA: AGRICultural OnLine Access Catalog

AGRICOLA is part of the National Agriculture Library (NAL), one of the world's largest agriculture libraries, run by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). This popular, important library database provides nearly 5 million book and journal citations covering multiple fields within horticulture, botany, and of course agriculture—with materials ranging from current publications back to the 15th century. For any academic queries or research, this should be one of your first places to check. AGRICOLA is also available as paid subscriptions through ProQuest and EBSCO, for value-added features such as full text articles, additional agriculture database access, and improved discovery UI.

American Horticultural Society (AHS)

For over 90 years, the AHS has promoted gardening and gardens in the US. Not only does the Society publish highly regarded encyclopedias and books, it also grants distinguished national book awards, which are reliable materials for collection development. AHS's gardening resources also include helpful maps, a regional listing of garden clubs and societies to encourage networking, and a seed exchange for members.

Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL)

"The [BHL] is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access" ( It is an excellent online archive with over 40 collections, several which provide historical documentation of past and present botanic and horticultural artifacts:

The Smithsonian Libraries, described below, is also one of its founders. In addition, the BHL is an acclaimed content partner for the exhaustive Encyclopedia of Life, the biggest publicly accessible, biological encyclopedia on the Internet.

The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries (CBHL)

The CBHL is an international group of libraries focused on botany and horticulture—it is the go-to place to find libraries on this bibliography's topic! Comprehensive resources include:

NAL Thesaurus & Glossary

The NAL provides controlled vocabularies for agriculture, nutrition, gardening, and other botanic topics. You can refer to the thesaurus and glossary for terms when using catalogs and databases. The thesaurus and glossary cover 17 subject categories, and they have over 98,000 terms with over 45,000 cross references. This invaluable LIS resource is available in several open formats (MARC, XML, PDF, Word, etc.), as well as in English and Spanish.

PLANTS Database

Administered by the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), also part of the USDA, PLANTS supplies "names, plant symbols, checklists, distributional data, species abstracts, characteristics, images, crop information, automated tools, onward Web links, and references" on plants native to and cultivated within the US and its territories. This is another authoritative resource on horticultural, agricultural, and nutritional data. PLANTS also has conservation, distribution, and identification guides. If the California state resources in this bibliography lack the information you seek, PLANTS can fill those voids.

Smithsonian Gardens and Libraries

Smithsonian Gardens:
Smithsonian Botany and Horticulture Library:
Smithsonian Libraries Databases:

The Smithsonian Gardens' archives and collections offer finding aids and a wealth of LIS assets on horticulture. This includes the Botany and Horticulture Library established in 1965, and library databases covering taxonomy, trade literature, and Smithsonian research. You can also access the Libraries' OPAC, and your library could possibly borrow materials through the Smithsonian's interlibrary loan services. In addition, you can search through the Selections from Archives of American Gardens provided by the SIRIS Image Gallery (Smithsonian Institution Research Information System).


Liberman, S. (2009). Bird's Eye Gilia, Tidy-Tips, Clarkia "Farewell to Spring." Retrieved from Botany gallery | Liberman.

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