Botanical Garden

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Temperate House in the Royal Botanic Gardens , London
Spring-like jewelery courtyard of the Munich Botanical Garden

A botanical garden is an extensive horticultural facility in which foreign and native plant species are shown sorted according to systematic, plant-geographical, ecological, plant-sociological or economic aspects. Botanical gardens can be state, municipal, private or affiliated to the botanical institutes of universities. Botanical gardens at universities are primarily used for scientific purposes. There are almost 1,800 botanical gardens around the world. 400 of them are in Europe and around 90 in Germany. There are botanical gardens on every continent except Antarctica . Most botanical gardens operate greenhouses for growing and displaying plants. An important component of today's botanical gardens are often ecologically and botanically interesting habitats with their typical plant communities.

A botanical garden limited to trees and shrubs is called an arboretum . An arboretum can also be part of a botanical garden. Other typical components are alpine and tropical houses .


The first and oldest botanical garden in the world, which is still in its original location in Italy , is the Botanical Garden of Padua , in Italian Orto Botanico di Padova . It was founded in 1545 and belongs to the University of Padua . Other early botanical gardens were founded in Pisa by Luca Ghini in 1544, as well as in Florence (1545) and Bologna (1568). Half a century earlier, the first woody botanical garden was created, the Trsteno Arboretum near Dubrovnik . It has been proven since 1492.

The first botanical gardens were founded in Germany in Leipzig (1580) and in Jena (1586). Then came the botanical gardens in Heidelberg (1593), in Gießen (1609) and in Freiburg (1620). Most of them were still integrated into the medical faculty as Hortus Medicus . The Kiel Botanical Garden was the first German botanical garden in the strict sense. It was established in 1669 by Johann Daniel Major at the University of Kiel . The first botanical garden in Portugal was established in 1772 by the Count of Pombal at the University of Coimbra .


"Science and pleasure" was the motto of the botanical garden in Kew near London (England) , at the beginning of the history of the great botanical gardens in Europe and America. It was the dual tone of science and pleasure that still shapes the philosophy of botanical gardens around the world today.

Herb gardens

Originally, the botanical gardens hosted largely medicinal herbs and were essential basis for the Phytopathological research and teaching, so were medicinal plants gardens . The model was the monastery herb gardens. The first botanical gardens like the one in Padua were also similar in shape and structure to the monastery gardens. Usually the plants in the beds were grouped according to the phytomedical substances they contained. Botanical gardens still offer illustrative material for the study of medicine, phytomedicine and botany as a whole. In the Herba Sana medicinal plant garden, for example, you can see herbaceous plants and shrubs as well as shrubs and trees with pharmacologically active ingredients.

Plant classification

Typical signage in a botanical garden

Later, with the exploration of nature and vegetation in distant parts of the world such as South America and East Asia, the botanical gardens acquired extensive collections of plants from all over the world. Some botanical gardens have achieved a high reputation for their outstanding plant collections and the research carried out at the affiliated institutes. These include the botanical garden in Kew near London (England), the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis (USA) , the New York Botanical Garden (USA) and the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden .

natural reserve

The botanical gardens, which are mostly attached to botanical university institutes, saw and still see it as their task to actively contribute to the conservation of biological diversity ( biodiversity ) and genetic resources through conservation cultures. In this way, they serve to preserve biodiversity . On the one hand, this happens because the gardens cultivate plants that are classified as endangered in their existence or have died out in their original home. One example is the toromiro ( Sophora toromiro ), a species of the pagoda tree, the only native tree species on Easter Island. The famous Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl saw the last Toromiro in the late 1950s and gathered some fruit. Since then, this species has been considered extinct. In 1988 botanists at the University of Bonn discovered a specimen of the Toromiro in their botanical garden. News of this discovery made waves. Later it turned out that the toromiro also survived in other botanical gardens. As part of a species conservation project, 160 Toromiros were brought to Easter Island from the Botanical Gardens in Gothenburg and Bonn in 1995. Some survived and are now growing back in their original homeland.

Seed exchange

In order to obtain plants relatively easily and inexpensively, a free seed exchange has been established between the botanical gardens. The botanical gardens usually compile a catalog of their seed supply, the Index Seminum, every year and exchange the Indices Seminum with one another. This is the most important source for maintaining and expanding your plant collections. Plant material is passed on exclusively for non-commercial use in research, educational work or nature conservation. Over 700 botanical gardens around the world are currently involved in this seed exchange. The oldest catalog dates from 1591 from the Padua Botanical Garden. One of the oldest surviving Indices Seminum from Germany dates back to 1797. It was published by the Botanical Garden of the University of Halle and is in the Secret State Archive of the Prussian Cultural Heritage in Berlin-Dahlem .

Public green

After all, botanical gardens with their park-like facilities are used for recreation. This is particularly the case in the extensive arboretums. One of the largest in the world is the Rombergpark Botanical Garden in Dortmund . It is 68 hectares in size.

The largest botanical gardens

The largest botanical gardens in the world are (selection, sorted by size):


  • F. Ebel, F. Kümmel, Ch. Müller-Uri: Bibliography of the Botanical Gardens of Europe - Supplement 2/1. University and State Library Saxony-Anhalt, Halle 1996, ISBN 3-86010-137-4 .
  • Herbert Reisigl: Flower paradises and botanical gardens of the earth. Penguin, Innsbruck 1980.
  • Johannes Reinke: The oldest botanical garden in Kiel; documented representation of the establishment of a university institute in the seventeenth century. Kiel 1912 ( full text )
  • Loki Schmidt : The Botanical Gardens in Germany. Hoffmann & Campe, Hamburg 1997, ISBN 3-455-11120-3 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Botanical Garden  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Helena Attlee: The gardens of Portugal , London, Frances Lincoln 2007, 25
  2. ^ F. Nigel Hepper (ed.): Kew: gardens for science and pleasure. In: New Scientist. October 7, 1982, accessed January 27, 2016 .
  3. Nature conservation in botanical gardens. In: German species protection portal. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016 ; accessed on January 27, 2016 .
  4. ^ Index Seminum of the Botanical Garden of the University of Mainz. In: Retrieved January 27, 2016 .
  5. (Sign .: 1. HA, Rep. 76 old Older higher cultural authorities, II No. 111, Bl. 143), see Kümmel, F .: 2010: Plant and seed directories of the Botanical Garden of the University of Halle since 1749. Schlechtendalia 20: 57-78.
  6. Homepage of the Botanical Garden Rombergpark. In: Retrieved January 27, 2016 .
  7. Retrieved July 4, 2020 .