Cultivated plants are now the basis of a vast industry involving agriculturists, foresters, professional horticulturists, market gardeners, home gardeners, people working in plant nurseries, landscape and garden designers, park managers, students, and many others.

Plant identification is, of necessity, carried out casually by everyone involved with plants. The unfamiliar academic aspect of botany – its Latin names, technical terms and botanical keys – have led publishers to produce simple colourful picture books designed to stimulate the reader by presenting a selection of the author’s favourites or a few representatives from major plant groups or, alternatively, encyclopaedic accounts with no botanically satisfactory way of distinguishing one plant from another.

A first step towards a professional scientific approach to cultivated plants is an inventory of correct and current botanical names. The next step is to provide descriptions and illustrations as a means of distinguishing one kind of plant from another. This is the task of the horticultural botanist and cultivated plant taxonomist.

The five volume Horticultural flora of south-eastern Australia was published over ten years from 1995 to 2005 as an authoritative guide to the identification of garden plants in the region. There were four major objectives:

  • to be a comprehensive inventory of the readily available and regularly encountered garden plants of south-eastern Australia

  • to be user-friendly by using clear, succinct, non-technical language and botanical keys in combination with clear illustrations that emphasise characters important for identification

  • to include information that is relevant not only to the region but also the general history of cultivated plant globalization. Emphasis is given to public gardens, exceptional trees, and specialist collections

  • to act as a reference for botanical and common names

The internet has dramatically increased the availability of plant information and new resources are constantly being added. The Horticultural flora of south-eastern Australia was made freely available on the internet on 27 May 2018, exposing the work to an international audience while facilitating editing and further development.

Feedback on any errors, omissions, or improvements is welcome.