Trees and Shrubs of the ETSIAAB

The project was launched in 2005 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Escuela Central de Agricultura (Central School of Agriculture). Its main objective is to promote the learning of botany from observation of the trees that grow in any garden, as a first step to become aware of the importance of plants.

The beginning

In the first stage, we published a digital interactive book on all the woody species occurring in the gardens. In 2006, the book received an honorary award granted by the General Foundation of Madrid Polytechnic University.

First website version

Encouraged by the great success of the book, we began a new adventure in 2007: adapting the book to the Internet. This step made it possible to broaden access to anybody interested in plants.

Translation into English

In 2009 we decided to translate the website into English, overcoming the language barrier. We wanted both to help our students to increase their knowledge of the English language, and to extend the use of this teaching resource to English-speaking students and teachers.

New species

In just over a decade, the garden composition underwent some changes. More than twenty specimens were infested and had to be cut down. In their place, different trees and shrubs were planted increasing the overall diversity to 93 species.

Incorporation of mobile technology

Thanks to technological advances, in 2017, we included an application to identify every tree and shrub in situ using a smartphone.


The number of page views has exceeded our expectations. Every month since it was launched, our website receives an average of 5.000 visits from more than 40 different countries.

Second website version: More than a new design

We have designed a new website that adapts its contents to the device from which it is accessed. We have also included an application that allows users to identify any tree or shrub in the gardens using their smartphones, and three possible routes to get to know the plants from different points of view.

Species sheet

For each species, there is a sheet with texts, photographs and a location map. Each sheet is headed by the scientific name of the species (along with its author(s)), its common name and, on the right, the name of the botanical family it belongs to. The icon to the right plays the audio pronunciation of the name (according to the prosody of classical Latin).

On the right side, there are five dropdown options with carefully written and reviewed texts about:

  • Etymology of the generic name and the specific epithet (and the infraspecific epithet, if there is one).
  • Description of the habit, leaves, flowers and fruits.
  • Phenology (please note this period is approximate and a visit to the gardens should be planned depending on the weather patterns of any given year).
  • Geographic origin.
  • Observations such as the most common propagation method and interesting features on the age, sex and health of the specimens in the gardens, as well as comments on other uses and applications, apart from ornamental ones.
Sheet description
Sheet description

The use (food, medicine or timber) and toxicity of the plants are shown in the sheet with icons. Species have been considered to be medicinal when they are part of a plant therapy product traded in Spain or are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, and as timber species when they are widely traded for their timber or yield high quality timber. The descriptions are completed by high quality photographs that show the general shape, leaves, flowers and fruits of the plant, as well as some details such as its bark, spines or other structures of interest. All the photographs were especially taken for this work and depict specimens of these gardens. They have short captions that help the reader interpret them and highlight traits that are useful to identify the species. It is possible to enlarge the pictures in the photo gallery and zoom in to see smaller details with a virtual magnifying glass.

Finally, the location map shows where all the specimens of a species can be found in the gardens.

For readers who are not familiar with botanical terms, a Glossary has been provided as support. All the terms it includes can be reviewed in a practical way with a simple visit to the gardens, which we hope will be a stimulating reward for people who are starting to learn botanical concepts.

A project of the ETSIAAB

The digital interactive book was possible thanks to the financial support of the ETS de Ingenieros Agrónomos (through Fundación Premio Arce) and the EU de Ingeniería Técnica Agrícola. The adaptation to the Internet and the English translation were partly funded by the Vicerrectorado de Ordenación Académica y Planificación Estratégica (Office of Academic Affairs and Strategic Planning) of Madrid Polytechnic University, through the Teaching Innovation Project entitled “Integrated learning through virtual tours of a garden. A teaching tool oriented to the EHEA” approved in the 2007 (IE070205089) and 2010 (IE10020528) calls for proposals.

Why this project?

Trees often go unnoticed by most people in spite of being vital elements in cities. They clean the air, increase water retention, improve our health… Learning to identify them is the first step to appreciate their value.

Mª Elena Torres
Mª Elena Torres, Author

If you want to enjoy what trees have to offer you, get to know them first.

Juan B. Martínez Laborde
Juan B. Martínez Laborde , Author

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