Arboretum Botanical Explorer Revitalized at the U.S. National Arboretum

In 2012, the U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) launched its Arboretum Botanical Explorer (ABE), giving both first-time visitors and advanced researchers a unique opportunity to explore its massive collections from anywhere in the world. This explorer replaced the Arboretum’s legacy system with a web-mapping application powered by ArcGIS, allowing users to search the collections and get information on specific plant records.

Arboretum Botantical Explorer

To coincide with the retirement of Adobe Flash Player and to keep relevant in modern browsers for years to come, USNA took the opportunity to make enhancements to the app. The application was redeveloped in JavaScript from its original Apache Flex framework. Special considerations ensure that the new ABE retained all features present in its first iteration, while creating a fresh new design. Visitors and researchers will still be able to use the application to search plants by common and scientific name, see where mapped plants are located, turn on Collection and Garden areas, and view visitor amenities such as parking and restroom locations in preparation for their trip. Users may also choose to take a guided tour of the application to better understand all the capabilities offered.

Part of the ABE redesign increased emphasis on the Arboretum’s photo collections. Visitors to the site are now greeted with a photo gallery. Selecting a photo will zoom the map to the plant location and show a wealth of information about the origin.

USNA ABE Photo Search

Expanding the available search options was another goal of the ABE redesign. In addition to the photo gallery, users of the application have more advanced choices in how to explore the collections. Experienced researchers and enthusiasts alike may use the new Structured Search to query the database by collector name, garden/bed location, and even life cycle traits. Searching on multiple attributes of a plant or species helps users narrow down the large collection. For users just looking to explore, updated map symbology and the Browse Plants Search help to quickly find the results of all records in a species.

Arboretum Structured Search

And of course, once visitors are onsite they can download the USNA Mobile App from the app stores and explore the specimens, active exhibits, and tours with ease.

To view the U.S. National Arboretum’s new Botanical Explorer, visit

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