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Standard views for live-plant images

In order to create learning tools and visual keys, it is necessary to accumulate images having particular plant features oriented in a particular way.  To facilitate this, we have developed standard views organized in a hierarchical fashion by plant type and feature.  The details of these standardized views are given in the references below. 

What is a view?

Morphbank ( has defined a means of categorizing organism images according to the organism's part, form, and taxonomic group, the viewing angle, and the photography technique.  Each combination of these image characteristics is assigned a unique identifying number.  For example, an image representing a general view of a whole live plant, unspecified form, and reflected light macrophotography has been assigned a view number of 463267.  This view can apply to plants of various types, such as:

woody angiosperm herbaceous angiosperm gymnosperm

One problem with views as implemented by Morphbank is that there are so many possible combinations of image characteristics that it is likely that any Morphbank contributor who submits a view description would select a slightly different set of characteristics, resulting in multiple view numbers that represent substantively the same thing.  Thus a user who would want to search the Morphbank database for images of whole live plants would have trouble finding all of the possible similar view numbers to use in a search.  

In order to avoid this problem and to encourage the consistent use of a small number of view numbers, sets of standardized views for live plants were created based on the categories suggested in Baskauf and Kirchoff (2008):

  • Standard views for woody angiosperms
  • Standard views for herbaceous angiosperms
  • Standard views for gymnosperms

  • Hierarchical organization: SERNEC Live Plant Imaging Standard Views

    The problem with the simple sets of standardized views linked above is that they carry no information about the hierarchical organization of views outlined in Baskauf and Kirchoff (2008).  For example, woody angiosperm views can be categorized by plant feature: whole plant, bark, twig, leaf, inflorescence, and fruit.  Some of these categories are shared with other view sets (e.g. gymnosperms have bark views), while others are not (e.g. gymnosperms do NOT have flowers).  It would be useful to restrict the possible standardized views to those that are applicable to a particular group.

    To facilitate the organization of Morphbank standard views as described in Baskauf and Kirchoff (2008), a hierarchy was created to define the hierarchical relationships among views that are appropriate for features of the different groups of organisms listed above.  The actual standard view codes are six-character strings organized in pairs of characters.  Each pair represents a level in the ontology:

  • first pair = organism group, e.g. 01=woody angiosperms
  • second pair = feature category within organism group, e.g. 04=leaf of woody angiosperms
  • third pair = the subcategory of the feature, e.g. 02=margin of upper and lower leaf surface for leaves of woody angiosperms
  • Thus the SLPIG standard view string 010402 represents "woody angiosperms - leaf - margin of upper and lower leaf surface", which corresponds to the Morphbank view 463917.  In image metadata, the SPLIG standard view in its HTTP URI form (""+[the SLPIG standard View string]) can be the object of the Subject Category (Iptc4xmpExt:CVterm) term of the Audiovisual Core Multimedia Resources Metadata schema TDWG standard. 

  • In addition to the definitions of the hierarchical views as RDF, an XML representation is available which can be used with Javascript or other programming languages to organize images and create drop-down pick lists.  The example picklists below were created using the XML file and Javascript.  The Morphbank view number is linked to the page on the Morphbank website which describes that view and provides an example image.

    Organism group Feature category Subcategory Morphbank view number

    Check-off sheet for herbaceous angiosperms (pdf; courtesy of Debra Valov)

    The legacy of the SERNEC Standard Views

    The international standards organization Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) has adopted standard controlled vocabularies for the Audiovisual Core terms ac:subjectPart (controlled vocabulary) and ac:subjectOrientation (controlled vocabulary). The development of the plant parts of these controlled vocabularies was influenced by the categories included in the SERNEC Standard Views and images from Bioimages were used as examples for some of the controlled values.

    References for further information:

  • Baskauf, S.J. and B.K. Kirchoff (2008) Digital plant images as specimens: toward standards for photographing living plants.  Vulpina 7:16-30
  • SERNEC Live Plant Imaging Group Standard Views