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"I was surprised that you could use the labels outside. But the laminated labels at the arboretum didn't look faded or weathered at all."
Forest Ecology Preserve

Fast Facts
Client: Forest Ecology Preserve
Industry:   Ecology
Situation:   Need for Harsh Environment Labels
Solution:   PT-1800 P-touch® electronic labeling systems

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The Company
Forest Ecology Preserve

Located in Auburn, Alabama, the Forest Ecology Preserve is an outreach program of Auburn University's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. Its mission is to provide natural habitats for education and research and to foster community interest in the natural world through expert-led nature programs.

According to Margaret Holler, the preserve's coordinator, they rely primarily on private donations and a volunteer staff to fund and run the organization. "The majority of our volunteers are Master Gardeners that come to us through the County Extension Service," she says.
The Story

Unless you spend your free time moonlighting as a plant naturalist, you probably can't tell a Dryopteris marginalis from a Cystopteris fragilis (in English, that's a Marginal Woodfern from a Fragile Fern). But don't feel bad. Even commercial horticulturalists need help keeping their stocks of flora properly identified and labeled. Plant professionals and institutions alike - from nursery, greenhouse and landscape managers to arboretums, botanical gardens and even universities and pharmaceutical research facilities - use plant markers to distinguish one species from another. The staff at one such institution, The Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, found a way to improve the longevity and visibility of its plant markers: They use a Brother P-Touch® Electronic Labeling System. FAST FACTS
Holler cites several key frustrations when it came to labeling the various plants and trees on the 110-acre facility. Handwritten labels - whether written in Number 2 pencil, grease pencil or indelible ink markers - were difficult to read. And with the nondescript markers tucked in among the plants, the visiting public frequently couldn't see the labels for the trees. What's more, the tags faded quickly and had to be replaced regularly - a lengthy project for a time-strapped volunteer staff. Holler wanted an easy-to-read, durable label that could withstand changes in the weather and that visitors could spot without difficulty, as they walked along the preserve's miles of self-guided trails.
P-touch Solution
Holler first learned of the P-touch labelers while flipping through a gardening magazine. An ad caught her attention, but she recalls being skeptical about using the labels outdoors. It wasn't until she saw labeled plant markers in use at an arboretum in North Carolina that she decided to give P-touch labelers a try, purchasing the PT-1800. "I was surprised that you could use the labels outside. But the laminated labels at the arboretum didn't look faded or weathered at all."

She began using the P-touch labeler in August 2002. The device fit into the busy routine easily, and Holler liked that she and her team of volunteers didn't have to spend a lot of time learning how to use it. The first labeling project involved identifying the varied species in the Preserve's wildflower and native plant gardens. Other projects included new labels for the fern and azalea viewing areas, the butterfly garden, and new signage for the plants and trees along the many hiking trails.
At the Forest Ecology Preserve, spring - which typically means fair skies and spring blossoms - used to mean a lot of time spent replacing faded, damaged or otherwise illegible plant markers. But this spring is different. Holler says the durable P-touch labels held up remarkably well through the winter - a simple fact that saves valuable time. The Preserve's volunteer staff is responsible for many aspects of its upkeep, from trail and land maintenance, facility repairs and educational programs, to public relations and fundraising efforts. The hours the staffers would have spent re-labeling hundreds of plant markers can now be applied to the countless other tasks that demand their attention.

Since they started using a P-touch labeler, Holler says she's received lots of positive feedback from visitors. "The white tape with black lettering provides an attractive look, but more importantly, it makes the labels extremely visible. Ultimately, it's easier for people to read and learn about the different plant species. Our hope is that by improving the public's overall experience, we'll increase the number of people who come here to enjoy nature and to support the Preserve."