You must have heard about botanical gardens also known as botanic gardens.
But do you know what they mean?
It is an area where plants are situated imitating a natural ecosystem for a systematic study.
They contain living plants not only for study but for conservation, research and display.
What are Botanical Gardens?
What comes to your mind when you think of a garden?
Probably greenery, trees, plants, lush green grass, colorful flowers and fruits.
However, botanical ones are places specifically for bringing knowledge to the general public and facilitating researchers over plant life.
Recently these gardens serve the purpose of conservation and preservation of plant species.
In order to understand them, we may need to delve into their history and origin.
Gardens date back to 3000 years ago with Egyptians and Mesopotamians establishing the first gardens.
However, gardens with a scientific purpose were only found by the 16 to 17th century in Italy known as the physic gardens.
These gardens were established to study medicinal plants in detail.
The first one is thought to be a physic garden in the University of Pisa made in 1543.
This was followed by physic gardens in several universities of Italy spawning soon all across central European universities and apothecaries.
Soon there was a swift change in the purpose and importance of botanic gardens.
Trade was on an all-time high and botanic gardens were used to explore and cultivate new species of plants and tropics brought back from expeditions.
This helped find new gardens to cultivate these new plant species in the tropical region.
They have been gaining momentum in the last 50 years.
This is due to their importance for conservation.
They contain a huge collection of plant species and have enough knowledge about them to facilitate conservation and propagation.
In order to classify as a botanical garden, it needs to meet a list of criteria.
Let’s discuss that below.
Firstly, the reason for the collection should have a scientific basis. Either it is to study medicinal plants or propagation and conservation of plant species.
If the gardens are pleasure gardens, they cannot classify as botanical gardens.
Moreover, there should be exact and proper documentation of the origin and types of the plant species especially if they have any wild origins.
Therefore, there needs to be proper labeling and regular monitoring of the plans in the garden.
Also, there is regular research, either scientific or technical on the species in the garden and regular research programs on plant taxonomy.
They are also related to other botanical areas and maintain communication and information between other gardens and institutions.
As well as exchanging seeds of plant species between other gardens and research institutions.
Also, they are open to the general public and have permanence in their locality.
They should launch studies on different ecosystems. Plants in Tropical and temperate ecosystems should be analyzed and preserved to protect the plants and the system.
Unlike the traditional botanic gardens, the gardens of today are composed of several different elements.
They have a scientific institution, a conservation organization, a theme park, a gallery and much more in a space dedicated to plants.
The library, herbarium and other aspects of botany should be in a botanical garden.
There should also be morphological gardens.
These can help show the dispersal of the seeds, and the laws of the taxonomy of plant species, their genetics and breeding gardens that eventually form the plant family.
Furthermore, there should be greenhouses and nurseries to conserve and propagate exotic, rare and delicate plants.
Importance of Botanical Gardens
Though these gardens give their resources to conserve and study plant species their role and importance is not confined to research.
They bring plant species around the world to public awareness.
One important aspect of these gardens is conservation.
We are already losing a lot of wildlife animals to hunting, we should at least try to retain our plant species.
Hence, these gardens work on cultivating and propagating rare plant species to include genetic diversity in a particular area.
The superior cultivation skills of experts and horticulture available in these gardens allow researchers to grow plants that will not sustain longer in the wild.
Seed banks and better living conditions and collections, protect the species and facilitate the restoration of their damaged habitat and their rehabilitation in the new one.
Moreover, they encourage taxonomical study and research.
They provide research into rare species and other plants therefore, they act as outdoor laboratories for researchers.
There can also be research on phytochemistry and development and use of plant species that can withstand harsh and changing climates which is especially relevant given the current climate changes and global warming.
They also supply plants, flowers and seeds for further research and exploration.
Additionally, they serve an educational purpose.
Some gardens offer educational programs which focus on trainings and workshops for researchers, students, naturalists, botanists and more.
People can get courses in horticulture, plant propagation and local flora.
Moreover, it can also serve as a means to educate about conservation.
It is easier to reach out to diverse groups of the audience to educate them about conservation and how to achieve it.
When people are more educated about plants, they can link them with their own well-being.
Moreover, it encourages sustainable plant use and sustainable development.
This knowledge can be passed onto generations who can make good use of local knowledge and lead to the sustainable use of plants.
The public in return, can also grow their own plant species. They will have good know how of local and exotic species.
Moreover, they can start home gardening and plant propagation and even sell their plants.
They also benefit people in the field like naturalists and botanists who wish to earn a living in environmental sciences by creating job opportunities for them here.
Moreover, they can become gene pools for wild varieties of plants that have economic and financial importance.
They are also a way to maintain and protect the abandoned and less aesthetic plants.
Plus it can also train arborists in cities to plant in the urban areas and grow to plant extensively.
Surprisingly they can also become a pollution indicator. If there is more pollution than the plants inside the botanical garden will be at more risk. This can identify levels of pollution in the area.
Initially, plants were distributed across the world and the country through botanic gardens. That can still come in use.
Other than that they are a huge recreation spot now.
They have theme parks, libraries, cafe and shops, museums, galleries and pleasure gardens.
Hence, they can likely attract people who want to try their hand at gardening.
They are a full cultural organization whose purpose has shifted from the collection of plant species to conserve them.
These gardens are a community of their own and they bring like-minded people together to discuss and plan the conservation of our environment and plant species.
They are a huge relaxation spot and can be a great place for people to unwind from their hectic routine and get aesthetic pleasure.
It is a place of solace, serenity and relaxation. You can relieve your mental stress and exhaustion in a visit to a botanical garden and can also learn about the value and urgent need of conserving our plants and environment.
The Layout of Botanical Gardens
Plants are laid out in a botanical garden according to their scientific relationship.
In other parks and gardens, you will find plants laid out for recreation, aesthetic beauty or landscape effect.
However, here they are aligned according to the plant collections’ scientific relationships.
The trees and shrubs are called in the arboretum and tree section.
Though sometimes they are also interspersed in the garden for a landscape effect placed with their respective taxonomic groups as well as herbaceous collections.
They are also sometimes placed together according to their geographic location.
Plus, at times small gardens are placed within larger gardens to give an aesthetic look, especially with flowers such as rose gardens.
They do not have a certain fixed size.
Moreover, they can be from about just a few hectares to a thousand hectares of land.
These gardens are mostly accompanied by greenhouses.
Greenhouses contain those plants that are not adapted to sustain seasonal changes.
For example, tropical orchids can grow in a greenhouse if the area has temperate climates and cold winters.
Similarly, tropical ferns are grown in greenhouses.
They function as places for the plants to start seedling and they are put out as soon as the weather turns warmer.
The same goes for storage areas for plants that need colder environments.
These storage areas have temperatures that favor the growth of some plant species.
This can be achieved by using cold frames for plants that need cold but not freezing temperatures.
Moreover, small houses of lathing can facilitate the growth of plants that cannot tolerate the summer sun and heat.
So Summing Up
Botanical gardens are an asset to a country and preserving them is beneficial to the community and people.
As global warming keeps rising, we may lose a few plant species to climate change.
Hence, we should be devoted to encouraging these gardens and the conservation of plant species.