Botany and Horticulture Library

The Botany Library was established in the winter of 1965-1966 when the Botany Department moved into the newly-built West Wing of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) building.  The library provides research support for the Department of Botany, NMNH and the large number of botanists world-wide, who use the collections and resources.

The Horticulture Branch Library was established in 1984, to provide research support for the Horticulture Services Division, now Smithsonian Gardens.  Smithsonian Gardens is responsible for the management of the gardens, grounds, greenhouses, and interior plantscaping at the Smithsonian Institution. The Library evolved from a small office collection that was begun in the early 1970s. Since that time, this collection has been enhanced by the donation of several large gifts.   Also, in 1984, more than 150 American titles on landscape design dating from the 19th- and early 20th-centuries were purchased by the Director of Horticulture at the time.  This collection has become the foundation of a present day approximately 10,000 volume collection in horticulture, American garden and landscape gardening and design. 

In 2003,  the horticulture collection was brought over to the Botany Library and from 2011 to 2013, the two collections were merged into the physical space at NMNH.

Currently, one librarian is assigned to manage, provide collection development, and answer reference inquiries about the subject areas contained in this library's collection.

About the Collections

Botany Collections

The Botany Branch Library houses around 50,000 volumes, including both books and journals, supporting the major interests of the Botany Department. Emphasis is on all aspects of plant systematics, including palynology, molecular evolution, classification, identification, nomenclature, cladistics, floristics, and endangered and threatened species. Other related subjects are botanical history, especially of North and South America, ethnobotany, plant exploration, and botanical illustration. Geographical coverage is world-wide, with a special emphasis on the neotropics.

Botany Special Collections

Several gift collections are incorporated in the library: the John Donnell Smith Collection of general botany; the Hitchcock- Chase collection, primarily on grasses; the E. Yale Dawson collection on algae and marine botany and the lichen portion of the John S. Stevenson collection on mycology. All are fully cataloged. The library also includes a general vertical file, which includes guides to many botanical gardens and arboreta, a biographical vertical file and a card index to biographical information in the botanical periodicals covering the year 1980 to the present.

Horticulture Collections

The Horticulture Library houses more than 5,000 books, 2,700 volumes of periodicals, 10,000 trade catalogs, 40 running feet of subject files, and a growing collection of videotapes. The branch collects materials in historical and practical horticulture, garden history, and landscape design in America and its influences. Included in these broad subjects are:

  • Floriculture
  • Interior plantscaping
  • Plant exploration
  • Garden preservation and restoration
  • Garden ornaments, furnishings, and structures
  • Arboriculture
  • Pomology
  • Integrated pest management
  • Flower lore and design
  • Botanical art

Particular strengths of the collection are in American gardens and gardening of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Horticulture Vertical Files

The Horticulture Library maintains six vertical files, the Subject Files, Institutional Files, Plant Materials Files, Biographical Files, Plant Society Files, and Current Seed and Nursery Catalogs Files. The Subject Files contain pamphlets, articles from journals, bibliographies, and other materials. The Institutional Files have brochures, pamphlets, publications, and clippings about botanical gardens, arboretums, etc. and are arranged alphabetically by state and city. Included in the Plant Materials Files is information on the cultivation of plants. Biographical Files include obituaries, theses, clippings on individual landscape practitioners, including landscape architects, authors, botanists, and artists. The Plant Society Files include information on publications, calendars of activities of societies, and membership information. Current Seed and Nursery Catalogs Files are heavily used by the Horticulture Services Division staff for planning the planting of gardens and for locating plant sources.