Botanical Gardens are gardens used for educational purposes along with the study of botany. The gardens contain a variety of plants with each plant labeled with its botanical name. The gardens can be themed gardens containing a collection of like plants such as cacti, orchids, roses or herbs. Gardens may also specialize in certain plants from all over the world including the tropics and the alpines, utilizing greenhouses and shadehouses where needed. Botanical gardens are usually open to the public for tours, educational purposes, as well as other forms of entertainment. The early botanical gardens were mainly used for medicinal purposes.
Botanist and horticulturists’ alike maintain botanical gardens, along with others with an interest in the study of plants. Documentation of the scientific research of the various plants along with displaying the various plants for educational purposes is the main role of those who maintain a botanical garden.
The staff at Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium of Cornell University defines the definition of botanical gardens as follows:
“A botanical garden is a controlled and staffed institution for the maintenance of a living collection of plants under scientific management for purposes of education and research, together with such libraries, herbaria, laboratories, and museums as are essential to its particular undertakings. Each botanical garden naturally develops its own special fields of interests depending on its personnel, location, extent, available funds, and the terms of its charter. It may include greenhouses, test grounds, and herbarium, an arboretum, and other departments. It maintains a scientific as well as a plant-growing staff, and publication is one of its major modes of expression.”
This broad outline is then expanded:
“The botanic garden maybe an independent institution, a governmental operation, or affiliated to a college or university. If a department of an educational institution, it may be related to a teaching program. In any case, it exists for scientific ends and is not to be restricted or diverted by other demands. It is not merely a landscaped or ornamental garden, although it may be artistic, nor is it an experiment station or yet a park with labels on the plants. The essential element is the intention of the enterprise, which is the acquisition and dissemination of botanical knowledge.”
Landscaped gardens in urban areas that are protected under the management purposes of documentation and the preservation of the plants history and the usefulness of that plant is a contemporary botanical garden. These gardens are also open to the public for educational and recreational activities.
Through time, the exchange of plants and the information about that plant was transferred between botanical gardens. Plants are still transferred today with attention being given to invasive species of plants and the possible piracy of genetics.
Image Caption: Botanical Gardens in Dublin. Credit: Thinkstock