IABG originated as a sub-commission of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), which held a colloquium on ‘The scientific organization of Botanic Gardens’ in Paris 4–6 June 1953 at which the following recommendations were made:
1. That a section be established within the International Union for the Protection of Nature (later IUCN) to work out the role of Botanic Gardens in the protection of plants and plant communities
2. That an Index of Botanic Gardens be prepared by the International Union of Taxonomy (later IAPT) with the aid of IUBS.
IABG was formally constituted in 1954 at the 8th International Botanical Congress held in Paris. The initial aims of IABG were:
• to promote international cooperation between botanic gardens, arboreta and similar institutes maintaining scientific collections of living plants.
• to promote the study of taxonomy of plants to benefit the world community.
• to promote documentation and exchange of information, living plants and specimens between botanic gardens and similar institutes.
• to promote the conservation of plants through cultivation and other means within botanic gardens and similar institutes.
• to promote the introduction to cultivation of appropriate plants of benefit to the community.
• to promote habitat conservation by cooperation between IABG and other relevant bodies.
• to promote horticulture as an art and science.
IABG is the official umbrella organization for botanic gardens and arboreta all over the world and is a scientific member of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) (see http://www.iubs.org/iubs/scmb/bot.html) to which it reports and as such is a member of the IUBS International Association of Botanical and Mycological Societies (IABMS) and has the same status as IAPT in which it was originally incorporated. IUBS is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU).
Initially IABG was a subsidiary of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT) which was its financial sponsor thus preventing it from fundraising itself but separated off as an independent body following a decision taken at the ninth General Meeting and Conference of the International Association of Botanic Gardens, Canberra, and 17-20 August 1981. It was also decided at Canberra to establish regional divisions of IABG:
• The European-Mediterranean division was the first to be created and held its inaugural meeting in Nancy (France) in July 1984 (Larsen & Maudsley, 1984). It was later replaced by the BGCI/IABG European Botanic Gardens Consortium.
• The Latin-American and Caribbean Division (Asociación Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Jardines Botánicos) was established at La Habana (Cuba), 1990.
• The Asian Division held its inaugural meeting in May 1991 in Tokyo (Kato et al., 1991).
• The Australia-South Pacific Region Division was established in 19??.
The regional divisions are semi-autonomous and (??all) have their own constitutions. Membership in a Division automatically conferred membership in IABG.
All botanic gardens, arboreta or other institutes and their staff are eligible for membership of IABG on application, either directly or through the various regional Divisions. Most major botanic gardens became members of IABG and continue to be so unless they have formally withdrawn their membership.
The aims of the IABG are pursued by means the same methods and procedures as those of IUBS, namely publications, committee work, meetings and symposia and contact through regionally autonomous groups having representation on the IABG Council.