Monday, 16 January 2017

From tome to tablet – Victoria’s new online flora profiles over 5,000 plants

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria today celebrated National Threatened Species Day with the launch of VicFlora, an online guide to all native and introduced plants that grow wild in the State of Victoria. VicFlora is the first, up-to-date online version of the State’s flora. 

It replaces the hard-copy Flora of Victoria which was completed in 1999, seventeen years ago. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Director and Chief Executive Professor Tim Entwisle was one of the editors of the first hard-copy four-volume Flora of Victoria in the 1990s. 

He says ‘that first Flora was a mighty effort at the time, but mighty also in weight and price. ‘I'm delighted this information is now available and accessible to all. Not only that, but with the addition of hundreds of new species and many years of research, VicFlora will be bookmarked on lots of phones, tablets and desktops around the State.’ 

When the massive, four-volume hard-copy Flora of Victoria was completed in 1999 there were around 4,500 plant species, subspecies, varieties and forms known from Victoria. 

Botanical research by RBGV scientists and others has resulted in the discovery of new species, many of them rare and threatened. In this first, up-to-date, online version of the State’s flora there are 5,315 different kinds of plants, a net increase of 18 per cent. 

Each plant profile includes technical keys for identification, full descriptions, maps and, for most species, illustrations. The illustrations include over 7,000 photographs, 2,900 line drawings and nearly 300 exquisite watercolours by botanical artist Enid Mayfield. 

You can also generate a checklist of plants growing in any bioregion or public reserve in Victoria, then track down their profiles. Professor Entwisle congratulated the staff who contributed to the project. Recent updates to the Flora have also been supported by the Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation, BushBlitz (a national initiative to document the country’s biodiversity) and private philanthropy. 

‘Building a digital Flora has had its own challenges, just like the original hardcopy version did. Media enquiries: Helen Vaughan, Marketing and Communications – 0427 834 802 or 9252 2470 

‘One of the main differences has been the inclusion of photographs. It has been an enormous task to gather the library of thousands of photographs to support the million or so words. ‘And unlike a printed book, of course there is always scope to keep updating the digital version. We’ll continue to add new images, new discoveries and new features to Vicflora. ’ 

‘Our next big addition will be a horticultural flora of south-eastern Australia. This guide to all the plants you can grow in your garden will be a world first – no other horticultural flora is fully on-line. Look out for that in July 2017.’ 

VicFlora went live on Wednesday 7 September and is available online at

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