Labelling at Kew

While attending a review of the uses of the GBIF at Kew today I took the opportunity to check out the labelling system in use in their glasshouses before heading home.  Kew gardens is England’s major botanic garden with unrivalled collections of plants from around the world.

The waterlily hose at RBG K.ew

The waterlily house at RBG K.ew

The tender plants are housed in a range of both modern and traditional glasshouses of which the Waterlily Hose is one of the smallest.  It contrasts with the extensive Princess of Wales Conservatory (Modern) and the Palm Hose (Traditional).

View of the wet tropics area of the Princess of Wales Conservatory

View of the wet tropics area of the Princess of Wales Conservatory

I checked the labelling in these three glasshouses and on the Alpine rockery. What surprised me was the huge range of different designs and styles of label. As with all the collections I’ve seen the most basic label type is the flimsy white handwritten label.

Flimsy white temporary labels written in pencil.

Flimsy white temporary labels written in pencil.

There are engraved labels in a similar shape that have been used to label a collection of small succulent plants that rather looks like a mini graveyard!  Informative but rather visually invasive.

Upright rectangular engraved labels

Upright rectangular engraved labels

Another familiar was the engraved black label with white writing but some of these also had a QR code engraved on them linking to the accession code.

White on Black engraved labels with and without a QR code

White on Black engraved labels with and without a QR code

 

 

 

 

 

QR codes are also found on some of the interpretive labels such as this one for the Saguaro cactus which links to a video.

Saguaro interpretive label with plant images and QR code linking to a video

Saguaro interpretive label with plant images and QR code linking to a video

This round label is not the only deviation from the standard rectangle, there are also labels shaped like aroid leaves with interpretive signage.

Interpretive labels inthe shape of aroid leaves

Interpretive labels inthe shape of aroid leaves

In contrast with these rather sophisticated signs there are also laminated print-outs used in some places.

A printed page that has been plastic laminated to preserve it from moisture.

A printed page that has been plastic laminated to preserve it from moisture.

As well as plant labels there are area labels to let yu know which climatic zone you are vsiting including door signs and wall signs.

Kew Princess of Wales Conservatory round door sign indicating the climate zone.

Kew Princess of Wales Conservatory round door sign indicating the planting zone.

In the Palm House these label types are augmented by engraved slate labels stating which area of the world is represented in the planted bed.  In the photo below you can see the engraved Australasia sign plus a range of other labelling all in close proximity.

Palm Hose labelling systems

Palm Hose labelling systems

As well as this selection there are Marianne North Trail signs in yet another style.

Sign linking the plant displays to the collection of paintings by Marianne North.

Sign linking the plant displays to the collection of paintings by Marianne North.

The Palm House also has a welcome sign with a map of the planting system. The rather fuzzy nature of this image shows how humid it was in there.

Palm House Welcome sign with schematic of planting scheme

Palm House Welcome sign with schematic of planting scheme

This is perhaps the greatest variety of different signage I’ve seen in one collection.  It gives rather a heterogeneous impression but certainly does not lack variety!

 

About Alastair Culham

A professional botanist and biologist with an interest in promoting biological knowledge and awareness to all.
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