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Alpine Garden Society Plant Encyclopaedia
Plant search (Family/Genus/Species etc.)

Navigating the Encyclopaedia

To use the Encyclopaedia click on one of the links above. For example to find a plant, click on 'PLANT SEARCH' and type in the first few letters of any part of the name.

The AGS online Plant Encyclopaedia

To use the Encyclopaedia click on one of the buttons, top left.  For example to find a genus, click on the 'Genera' button and type in a few letters of the name of the genus you want.

A complete list of the plant familes currently used in the encyclopaedia and a list of the botanical authors credited with naming species can be found here:

Plant Families

Botanical Authors

The printed AGS Encyclopaedia of Alpines was published in 1993 and was heralded as "the standard reference in its field for many, many years to come".

As part of the process of developing an online version of the Encyclopaedia, the original text has been scanned and converted into a website version that can now be continually updated and extended. AGS members can also make contributions (text or images) about their favourite genera and species and we hope that many of you will do this.

Work is progressing on improving the range of images used to illustrate the encyclopaedia and on rectifying omissions in the original volumes. This will be an ongoing project for the foreseeable future.

The Saxifraga section of the Plant Encyclopaedia is funded by the David Harding Foundation in memory of Winton Harding.

At the bottom of this page, you can find the Introduction to the Original Printed Encyclopaedia.

Online Encyclopaedia Project Development Stages

Stage 1: Scan text from existing paper encyclopaedia.

This was done some time ago and the end result was a structured pdf file containing all the original text and images. Scanning old text like this is fraught with problems and there were many issues to be sorted out before the scanned text could be used to create an online version of the encyclopaedia.


Stage 2: Design online version of encyclopaedia.

This involved the design of a database to hold the data for the encyclopaedia and the screen layout and programs for presenting the information to the user.


Stage 3: Clean up scanned text.

This was a very tedious job.  There were not only mis-scanned words ('Hardy'='Flardy'), but also places where the structure of the text was wrongly construed.  This would have resulted in many species being missed and spurious species being created during the import Stage.


Stage 4: Import final cleaned up scanned text into online version.

It still needs careful proofreading as there are lots of one-off  mis-scans that couldn't be easily detected at Stage 3.


Stage 5: Provide good editing and access permission facilities for online version

This is important as the proofreaders will be given editing permission for the genera they will cover and will want to make corrections as easily as possible.


Stage 6: Proofreading of imported text and suggestions for omissions that need rectified..

This requires a large team of volunteers, each taking responsibility for one or more genera. Many people have already offered their services.


Stage 7: Incorporate line drawings from original encyclopaedia

These were all drawn by Christine Grey-Wilson and were an invaluable aid to identification within a genus.  They were scanned at the same time as the original text but now need extracted from the scans and incorporated in the online version.

IN PR0GRESS (see Saxifraga hirculus for an example)

Stage 8: Incorporate images from original encyclopaedia.

Original images from the paper encyclopaedia also need extracted and incorporated in the online version.


Stage 9: Incorporate images from AGS website.

This is working, but needs the images on the main AGS website to be better  indexed so that an appropriate image with appropriate permission can be identified easily for use by the encyclopaedia.  There are about 20,000 images on the main AGS website and another 4,000 or so in the Show results section which is separate - a tremendous resource.


Stage 10: Incorporate supplementary material that was commissioned for a planned paper supplement.

This material was on obsolete discs and an attempt has been made to retrieve the files from these discs.  Some has been successfully retrieved and will be incorporated in the online encylopaedia.


Stage 11:

Develop a mechanism for AGS members to contribute to the encyclopaedia.  This is being developed around the existing discussion facilities on the main AGS website. Members can submit their own growing tips and pictures to this more informal area of the encyclopaedia.  This mechanism has been implemented.  We need to add a facility for suggested new material to be approved and incorporated in the 'official' encyclopaedia.


Original Encyclopaedia

Introduction by Chris Brickell

Many individual gardeners were keenly, some almost obsessively, interested in alpine plants and rock gardening prior to the formation of the Alpine Garden Society in 1929. The enthusiasm engendered by the establishment of an organised society devoted to alpines, however, acted as a catalyst for devotees of the mountains and alpine plants to pursue their passion in the company of like-minded people and to pass on their expertise and knowledge to other gardeners who, in return, became alpine addicts.

By the beginning of World War 2 membership of the AGS was 2,000 and after the war steady and sustained growth was achieved with the formation of local groups and a series of publications devoted to alpine plants being published by the Society. During the last ten years there has been a considerable upsurge in membership, now standing at 13,000 and a continuing demand for more and more detailed information on alpine plants. It is, therefore, both timely and very appropriate that our Society should have taken the decision to publish what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive, informative and accurate reference work on alpine plants that has ever been produced to date anywhere in the world: the Alpine Garden Society's Encyclopaedia of Alpines.

Many alpine gardeners use Reginald Farrer's classic The English Rock Garden (1919) plus Sampson Clay's supplement The Present Day Rock Garden (1937) as a basic reference work, but inevitably with new plants tumbling into cultivation from all over the world, they now fall far short of our requirements. Recent AGS monographs on various genera have satisfied partially the thirst for knowledge of alpine and rock garden plants but the need for information on a world-wide basis has been apparent for some years. It was first discussed by the AGS Committee in the early 1980s and in 1985 it was decided to launch the Encyclopaedia Project. Kenneth Beckett was appointed Editor in 1986 and began the daunting task of planning the work and persuading knowledgeable AGS members to contribute accounts of genera of which they had particular expertise. The inclusion in the Encyclopaedia of just under one thousand genera of alpines known to be in cultivation, or to have been in cultivation, from the world's mountain flora is a remarkable achievement. Ken Beckett is to be congratulated and warmly thanked by all interested in alpine and rock garden plants for his extraordinary diligence, persistence and scholarship in preparing this outstanding reference work for publication.

It should also be recorded that Ken Beckett further undertook to write more than half the accounts himself; a major achievement by any standards by an Editor of such a detailed and comprehensive work.

The very important contributions made by AGS members, the design of the publication by John Fitzmaurice and overall production by Christopher Grey-Wilson, the Society's Editor, have all added greatly to the authority of the most ambitious publishing project yet undertaken by The Alpine Garden Society.

Its coverage in two volumes is unequalled and there is no doubt in my mind that it will remain the standard reference in its field for many, many years to come.