Botanical Gardens


A Botanical Gardens Risk Checklist

I wanted to know more about botanical gardens and the security problems and risks they face so I asked our resident expert Robert Carotenuto, Secretary of the AAM Security Committee and Director of Security for the New York Botanical Gardens. When every plant is a specimen and part of the collection, many things thought of as "normal" in a museum environment can be problematic. Here is a checklist from Robert:

Botanical Garden Security Challenges:

Display-related Risks

Picnicking or sunbathing on lawns

Visitors playing recreational games on the grounds

Graffiti—carving names into trees

Theft of plants and vegetation


Arson (native forest)

Weather-related Risks

Staff exposed to the elements (heat, cold, rain, snow) for extended periods of time

Uneven paths can become slick or icy

Narrow roadways restrict vehicle access (emergency services)

Storms felling trees: damage to collection and/or property (buildings & vehicles), personal injury

Severe weather damaging living collection

Lightening as a threat to collections and, of course, visitors.

General Risks

Construction unwittingly damaging collection; digging or trenching a distance from a tree can still impact root systems.

Ice-melt product damaging collection

Persons having allergic reaction after touching plants

Vehicular accidents

Personnel injured operating equipment (e.g. arborist using clippers or chainsaw)

Pests (vermin, insects, various animals) or destructive fauna invading collection

Pesticides (personnel exposure, fire/explosion)

Compost fires

Squatters or after-hour “thrill seekers”

Large areas not under physical or electronic surveillance

“Soft target” terrorist target

One botanical garden security manager told me that a major concern of his is that his area is prone to violent electrical storms and that when a storm blows up, people often take refuge under trees--the worse possible place to hide.  His facility installed shelters but also drove through the park in an electric vehicle to “rescue” visitors stranded on trails in violent storms.

To some degree, the risks you face depend on your location. A Florida garden told of frequent alligator encounters in the gardens.

Another manager said that his greatest concern is when high school and college kids from the area steak into the park at night and set fires or cause serious damage.