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Tree Flagging

During the winter of 2024, Houston Botanic Garden’s horticulture team, with the help of volunteers, staked, flagged, and mapped 116 young trees in its South Gardens. Out of the 116 saplings, 61 are new recruits — often referred to as volunteers — from the local trees, and are now a part of the Garden’s collection.

Staking, flagging, and mapping these young trees ensures they are properly cared for and protected during routine site maintenance. It also ensures they are included in the Garden’s drought watering program maps, which are important in the event of a not-unusual-for-Houston hot, dry summer.

While the task may appear to be as simple as placing a flagged stake at each tree, it actually involves a good deal of care, thought, and moving parts behind the scenes.

First, Fran de la Mota, the Garden’s deputy director of horticulture, requests of the Garden’s plant records manager existing accession record locations of young trees, and mapping of new sapling recruits.

Next, Jena Portanova, the Garden’s plant records manager, who oversees the living collections records and related GIS (Geographic Information Systems), pulls the relevant data and creates the necessary paper maps and digital resources.

In coordination with Colin Lyman, the Garden’s senior horticulturist, the plant records manager determined that field maps and volunteer help were needed. The plant records manager requested that Meagan Terry, the Garden’s volunteer engagement manager, send out a request for volunteers through Better Impact, the Garden’s newly adopted web-based volunteer management software. The call for volunteers resulted in the recruitment of six individuals willing to help.

Meanwhile, the plant records manager exported the X & Y coordinates for saplings from the Garden’s collections database (IrisBG) and uploaded them to the ArcGIS Online service for creation of the print and digital maps that would be used for navigation and data entry.

Garden horticulturists Laura Webb and Phillip Jennings, plus assistant horticulturist Cory Saul, helped orient volunteers and sent them out to locate and stake young trees. The 6-foot bamboo stakes they used were recycled from dieback stems harvested by Diane Allen, a gardener, and volunteers, following a deep freeze in winter 2024.

Using the digital field map created for the project, volunteers confirmed the presence of existing trees and added the locations of new recruits. Using the data collected, the plant records manager updated existing accessions and accessioned (formally received) new recruits into the Garden’s living collections.

The plant records manager also surveyed volunteers and reviewed internal workflows to prepare for continuation of the project in the natural ecosystems of the Island portion of the Garden site in the future.

Our Mission

Enriching life through discovery, education, and the conservation of plants and the natural environment.


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Houston, TX 77017
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Houston, TX 77017

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