Flagship Projects

We are working on five flagship projects that deliver our mission.


Plants in the Garden

The Botanic Garden is home to over 4,500 databased plants and many more native and naturalised species besides. All of the plants are grown year-round outside: using carefully designed habitats such as scree, rocks, rubble, ponds, woodlands and sand dunes we are able to take a habitat-led approach to gardening the plants here.

Whilst the plants represent a wide range of the diversity that is found in temperate biomes, we have a particularly strong focus on genera including Fritillaria, Galanthus, Rhododenron, Sorbus (sensu lato), and Viburnum.

The Tangled Bank

The Tangled Bank project is our long-term commitment to monitoring plants on the move, addressing blind spots in our understandings of habitats and species at the leading edges of their distribution, and providing guidance to land managers, designers and gardeners that harnesses cutting edge technology and statistics to optimise urban and rural landscapes for biodiversity.

The Tangled Bank project has three core aims:

To bear witness to the changes we see in temperate habitats

  • We will record and measure change in species abundance and diversity in long term monitoring plots
  • Through our research, we will contribute to the better understanding of fundamental plant functioning and how this scales up into successional pathways

To add value to existing programmes

  • We will collate and synthesise existing biodiversity data related to the habitats and sentinel species in the programme
  • We will reinforce existing resources through the collection of the types of data that are missing or difficult to collect

To support restoration and conservation decision-making

  • We will maximise accessibility by providing access to the raw data through the Tangled Bank database and contributing to established resources (eg BioTime, TRY, Compadre, GBIF, NPMS, GIBase).
  • We will provide guidance to guidance to communities, applied ecologists, industry.

During the pilot phase we are working with sites in Scotland, England and Sweden to record baseline data, refine our research protocols and build the database; the programme will be launched formally in in Spring 2025. Please write to us at info@standrewsbotanic.org if you are interested in participating in the Tangled Bank and would like to find out more.

Widening Access

Our Widening Access programme makes sure that everyone can participate in the Botanic Garden. In this programme we develop tailored projects for groups who have particular needs, working as a trusted partner that understands the diversity of experiences in our community. Whether through travel support for holiday clubs, community gardening, workshops or long-term relationship building, we find that the Botanic Garden offers a unique way of breaking down barriers and creating special moments that make a difference.

Herbarium Holobiont

St Andrews Botanic Garden herbarium holds a treasure trove of biodiversity records, with collections made from the Botanic Garden and around the world and across the kingdom of life. Of particular importance is the Algal collection, with tens of thousands of unique specimens made through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Herbaria around the world hold unique collections, many of which are underexplored and have the potential to offer new perspectives on contemporary research questions. Our Herbarium Holobiont project is a pilot to explore ways of re-interpreting biodiversity archives through. We are using two case studies: firstly, by beginning the process of digitising the SAB Algal collection in: this project re-considers the role of a Herbarium by using the archival biogeography research as a scaffold for multi species memories, environmental humanities research and community workshops. Alongside this we are exploring the heritage of trees of Fife and Kinross by revisiting books and catalogues published between 1870 and 1970, extracting biodiversity data and conducting field studies to explore how trees in our region have responded to the waves of cultural, climate and environmental change over the past 150 years.

Designed Ecology

The way we design and build our homes is committing us to a future we know we do not want. The impacts of habitat fragmentation and ecological disturbance mean that we urgently need new ways not just of designing and building but new tools to think with about different futures. The scale of this challenge means that we all have a role to play and through our Designed Ecology programme, we are working with partners to find a pathway out of the Anthropocene towards a Biocene.

Through our expertise in ecological research and design, we are engaged in a range of projects that test how we might work together to develop the tools we might need. These include

  • The Bioscope , a prototype structure by Studio Biocene that hosts experimental Engineered Living Materials,
  • The Generator Garden, which tests methods for regenerating urban brownfield sites through decaying wood,
  • The Nature Restoration Fund Coastal Shores project, which introduces native scrub and meadows to heritage sites and playing fields across the University of St Andrews campus,
  • The Fife Climate Forest , where we are ground-truthing statistical techniques for planning assisted tree migration,
  • GI Base, a database of the plants used in the Green Infrastructure industry in Scotland.

Developing new ideas needs many heads to come together: we are interested in opening conversations with landscape architects, urban foresters, artists, placemakers, developers, community groups and designers, so please get in touch if you have a project or an idea that you’d like to talk about.