BOTANICAL GARDENS. Botanical, or botanic, gardens are tracts of land set aside for the cultivation of a diversity of plant species, grown not as cash crops—although botanical gardens may have commercial purposes—but rather for study and pleasure. Botanical gardens, including arboretums (tree collections), have served a variety of purposes throughout American history: re-search, education, conservation, plant development, and entertainment. Botanical gardens may specialize in local flora or present plants from around the world, within the limits of the local soil and climate unless the plants are placed in a greenhouse.
The arrangement of the botanical garden must balance an aesthetic presentation with educational purposes and spaces open to visitors, and yet useful for botanists and conservationists, although most botanical field re-search is carried out in environments other than public botanical gardens. Botanical gardens are often home to experiments with hybridization and the development of new plant species (cultivars).
In the eighteenth century, it became fashionable to construct gardens around Carl Linnaeus's classification system, which made comparisons within plant families easier. Moreover, the distinctions between more rustic English gardens and more geometric and orderly French gardens have also influenced American designers of botanical gardens. In addition, American gardens presenting species from around the world often group them by origin, sometimes fashioning each section to look like the native area. Alternately, plants are sometimes grouped by the geological features where they are found. However, American botanical gardens, especially those further north, must account for seasonal changes in planning their design, sometimes closing during the winter.
European botanical gardens originated in the Renaissance during the sixteenth century. During the Middle Ages, botanical investigations had been greatly hampered by the inability of manuscripts to depict plants accurately, as each copy was made anew. The invention of printing in the 1450s, combined with the recovery of ancient botanical texts, allowed the study of botany to flourish in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
It is believed that Luca Ghini created the first botanical garden in Pisa in 1543, but such gardens quickly spread throughout Italy and beyond into Europe, often connected to schools of medicine and focusing on medicinal herbals. Early medicinal gardens in America were modeled on these, most famously and perhaps first, a garden founded in 1694 outside Philadelphia by German Pietists.
Gardens of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Philadelphia was also the first center for public botanical gardens in the American colonies. Botanist John Bartram initiated the Philadelphia Botanical Garden just outside the city in 1728. The five-acre garden featured both native and exotic plants and Bartram traveled around America looking for worthy additions, some of which he sent to European gardens. The garden closed during the American Revolution.
Colonial powers often used botanical gardens to grow spices and exotic goods, but because of colonial America's relatively cold climate, gardens designed for overseas trade never became as prevalent as in India, Malaysia, or the West Indies. However, throughout American history botanical gardens have stimulated American agriculture by providing seeds for many commercial plants. The distinction between a garden and a nursery has never been absolute, as evidenced by the nursery founded in 1737 by Robert Prince in Flushing, New York. The nursery cultivated exotic trees and plants to sell to Americans and one famous patron was George Washington. In 1793, William Prince expanded the holdings and named it the Linnaean Botanic Garden. Many plants gathered during the explorations of Lewis and Clark were sent there. The garden thrived until the Civil War, collapsing in 1865.
Other nursery gardens, however, were spectacular failures, notably the Elgin Botanical Garden founded in Manhattan by physician David Hosack in 1801. This garden, which included greenhouses and hothouses to allow for the cultivation of species from warmer climates, was an early influence on the young John Torrey, an influential botanist. Hosack planted thousands of species on the twenty acres of land for medicinal, educational, and commercial purposes and spent vast sums on importing, growing, researching, and displaying plants from around the world. Bankrupted by the expense, however, Hosack had to sell the garden in 1810 at a net loss to New York State, which gave the land to Columbia College. The garden, on which Rockefeller Center stands, was quickly terminated.
The idea for a national botanic garden was first suggested in 1816 and one was established in Washington, D.C., in 1842, after a more modest attempt failed in 1837. The United States Botanic Garden, which, expanding, shifted locations in 1850 and 1933, became the receiver of plants collected on expeditions, which were then cultivated, studied, displayed, and dispersed. The garden today has over twenty-six-thousand plants, including ones that are rare, of historic value, are medicinally important, or are the subject of study. Meanwhile, the U.S. National Arboretum, also in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1927. Almost 450 acres are devoted to the display and study of trees and other flora. It is supervised by the Agricultural Research Service of the Department of Agriculture and has hybridized and introduced 650 new plant species to the American landscape.
Although other short-lived attempts to establish botanical gardens were made in the nineteenth century, it was not until 1859 that another (and the longest-running) public, non-governmental botanical garden was successfully opened in America. The Missouri Botanical Garden, which was begun in 1859 by Henry Shaw, an English merchant motivated to create a garden on his lands in St. Louis by a trip to London in 1851, including a visit to the renowned Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The Missouri Botanical Garden, operating into the twenty-first century, serves as the home for the Center for Plant Conservation, a coalition of over thirty botanical gardens nationwide that attempts to preserve endangered native American plants.
The Proliferation of Botanical Gardens
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a marked increase in the number of public botanical gardens, many of them affiliated with universities or other research centers. Some were bequeathed to the public by devoted amateurs. Notable among the botanical gardens begun in this period include the Arnold Arboretum (1872), the New York Botanical Garden (1891), The Smith College Botanic Garden (1893–94), the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1911), the Huntington Botanical Gardens (1912), Longwood Gardens (1921), and the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley (1928).
The Arnold Arboretum is affiliated with Harvard University, which had begun the much smaller Harvard Botanic Garden in connection with the Botanic research facilities in 1805, but the Arboretum estate was bequeathed by James Arnold for an open-air collection of both local and exotic woody plants. The Arboretum consists of 265 acres in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. It was created by Frederick Law Olmsted and its first director, Charles Sprague Sargent. Although suffering great damage in a 1938 hurricane, it remains one of the outstanding American gardens, known for its scientific research, plant development, extensive herbarium, and East Asian collections.
The New York Botanical Garden has 250 acres in The Bronx, and is a National Historic Landmark, along with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the recreation-only Boston Public Gardens. Many botanical gardens produce journals of their research, but the New York Botanical Garden has its own press, producing journals and books. In 2002, the garden opened the International Plant Science Center for its herbarium and library, both of which are among the largest in the world. The garden is renowned for its scientific research; climate change, molecular biology, plant diseases, and biodiversity are studied.
Smith College, which has a strong tradition in the botanical sciences, considers its entire campus, as reworked in 1893 by Frederick Law Olmsted, to be an arboretum, in addition to the botanical garden, which was officially begun in 1894. Today there are a variety of botanical resources at Smith College, including an herbarium and smaller gardens, that supplement the study of botany.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has fifty-two acres in the middle of New York City. As a small, urban garden, much of the scientific research focuses on plants native to the New York area and on the recent Center for Urban Restoration initiative with Rutgers University, which studies ways to ameliorate the environmental impact of urban development. Historically, a key element of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's popularity has been its success in introducing botany to and encouraging horticulture among people living in the largest American city.
The Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, were initially part of the estate of Henry Huntington, who began working on his botanical gardens in 1903 and officially founded the gardens in 1912. On the 150 acres there are several specialized gardens demonstrating landscapes from around the world, including subtropical and jungle. The garden is especially known for cultivating exotic succulents.
The Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania offer 1,050 acres dedicated mostly to display and education, although there is also a center for research. Prior to the founding of the gardens, the estate—known as Peirce Farm—had a remarkable tree collection, which Pierre du Pont bought. In the early twentieth century, he began converting it into a public garden known for its beauty and extravagance. It was largely based on Italian and French models, but included display gardens exhibiting species from around the world.
The University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley was originally established in 1890 as a garden specializing in native species. Upon being moved to a different campus location in 1928, the collection began to expand to include exotic species. Although the garden is only thirty-four acres, the collection is known for the diversity and depth of its holdings.
Also notable is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, one of the largest desert gardens in the world. Founded in 1937, the southwestern climate allows the garden to cultivate and display in a natural setting plants that could not survive elsewhere in America.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, botanical classifications and research became oriented toward physiology rather than morphology. This increased the amount of scientific equipment necessary for a botanical garden and encouraged a move away from Linnaean displays.
Botanical Gardens and Conservation
The suburbanization of the American landscape in the twentieth century has threatened the prominence and viability of public botanical gardens, especially those in cities. Urban renewal projects of the 1970s and 1980s, when combined with economic growth, perhaps resulted in an urban revival of the 1990s, in which botanical gardens again began to flourish.
Although botanical gardens remain significant for recreation and education, the most important trend in botanical gardens worldwide during the twentieth century has been an increasing awareness of the their potential to assist in conservation efforts. Industrialization, pollution, urbanization, suburbanization, the destruction of rainforests, climate change, and the spread of invasive species as a result of globalization are all currently threatening biodiversity, with plant species going extinct every day.
Botanical gardens can offer ex situ conservation from species that are being ousted from their original habitats. The first attempt to involve botanical gardens around the world in coordinated conservation efforts was made in 1987 with the founding of the Botanic Gardens Conservation Secretariat. At the start of the twenty-first century, the Center for Plant Conservation houses 580 rare native American species. But according to its statistics, 730 of the 20,000 American native plant species are now officially endangered, while about 4,000 are considered threatened. It seems that conservation has become the most important research function of botanical gardens today.
Directory of Gardens of North America. Kennett Square, Pa.: American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, 1998.
Hill, Arthur W. "The History and Function of Botanic Gardens." Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 2 (February–April 1915): 185–240.
Hyams, Edward. Great Botanical Gardens of the World. New York: Macmillan, 1969.
MacPhail, Ian, comp. Hortus Botanicus: The Botanic Garden and the Book. Chicago: Morton Arboretum, 1972.
Mulligan, William C. The Complete Guide to North American Gardens. Boston: Little Brown, 1991.
O'Malley, Therese. "Your Garden Must Be a Museum to You." In Art and Science in America. Edited by Amy R. W. Meyers. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1998.
Piacentini, Richard. The Plant Collections Directory: Canada and the United States. Kennett Square, Pa.: American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, 1996.
See alsoGardening .
There are many botanical gardens in the United States, most of which were created to provide both a natural environment for people to enjoy and a laboratory for scholars to study plant diversity. They generally contain various botanical species along with libraries, herbaria, museums, and research and educational facilities. Traditionally distinguished by their use of some kind of classification system, botanical gardens use the science of taxonomy to arrange and compare the plants and herbarium material collected by them. This practice has enabled botanical gardens to serve as acclimatization stations through which plants native to one part of the world can be established and introduced to the public in other parts of the world. Recent developments such as the emphasis on horticulture and the inclusion of greenhouses and conservatories have broadened the scientific and recreational appeal of botanical gardens across the nation.
Origins and Development
Although there are records of a botanical garden in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as early as 1672, the Missouri Botanical Garden, founded in 1859, was the first in the United States to follow the European model that developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The founding occurred at exactly the time that the parks movement was beginning in the United States; botanical gardens were soon established in New York and Philadelphia in 1891, and in Brooklyn in 1910, in concert with the parks designed by men such as Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. Most of these new American botanical gardens combined scientific endeavors with a more civic purpose that encouraged the use and enjoyment of the gardens by the public. They also tended to have a horticultural rather than purely scientific emphasis that involved the collection and maintenance of various plants and the exchange of seeds with other botanical gardens around the world, using the global Index Seminum system. During the twentieth century, several private botanical gardens were created that did not fit into the mainstream international tradition. Such gardens often do not participate in seed exchange or other global networks, preferring to focus on educational and recreational programs with strong support from their local community.
Major Botanical Gardens
Missouri The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis has led the scientific study of plants in the United States since it was established in 1859. It was founded by Henry Shaw, a wealthy Englishman who settled in St. Louis in 1819 and subsequently decided to turn the garden he was building at his country home, Tower Grove, into a scientific one that would be bequeathed to the people of Missouri. Shaw received assistance in the development of the garden from two well-qualified friends: Sir Joseph Hooker, who was the director of the world-renowned Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in England, and Shaw's physician, Dr. George Engelmann, who was also a trained botanist. In 2004 Shaw's garden consisted of an urban garden of approximately seventy acres (thirty hectares), as well as an arboretum of about 1,500 acres (607 hectares) outside the city with various tree and shrub species, and a tropical station in Panama. Key figures who worked on the garden include directors Dr. William Trelease and Dr. George Moore, as well as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who was also responsible for the architecture of New York's Central Park and the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard. The garden's scientific reputation is based largely on its herbarium, which houses 2.5 million specimens, and its extensive library containing 80,000 volumes. Its most famous feature, built in 1960 by Director Fritz Went, is the Climatron, one of the garden's six public greenhouses. The world's first conservatory built on the Buckminster Fuller geodesic principle, the Climatron is a suspended dome that is 175 feet (53 meters) in diameter and 80 feet (24 meters) high, with a skeleton of aluminium, Plexiglas glazing, and no internal supports. This design enables the creation of several different climates within the dome through the mechanical control of hot and cold air and humidity. The Climatron was planted with a variety of tropical species from both arid and rain-forest habitats, making it a unique and appealing tropical jungle. More recently, a large Japanese garden has been added to the diverse styles that draw both experts and novices to the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
New York Established in 1891, the New York Botanical Garden followed the scientific example of its Missouri predecessor, with its current influence often compared to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The Torrey Botanical Club, a group of wealthy men and women who shared an interest in plants, conducted an energetic public campaign that convinced the city's Department of Parks to set aside 250 acres in Bronx Park for a New York Botanical Garden alongside additional land that had been earmarked for the Bronx Zoo. While the city agreed to provide up to $500,000 for the necessary developments, it stipulated that the garden's backers must provide an additional $250,000 in private funds to demonstrate their commitment to the public the garden was intended to serve. The corporation that was set up to raise such a significant amount of money enlisted the support of some of the nation's most influential and wealthy citizens, including Cornelius Vanderbilt II, Andrew Carnegie, J. Pierpont Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. Their involvement began a tradition of active service at the gardens from civic leaders that continues today.
The original site of the New York Botanical Garden incorporated a dramatically varied landscape that included rolling fields, water features, rock outcroppings, and native trees. These natural features were gradually enhanced with an extensive network of roads and paths as well as various outdoor growing areas, a conservatory, and a museum, making it a botanical garden that served both scientific and recreational purposes. Its features now include a herbarium of over 4 million specimens, a library of 170,000 volumes, research laboratories, publishing facilities, and a greenhouse complex called the Great Conservatory that was restored in 1997. It is considered a world leader in the fields of horticulture, science, and education, and continues its original purpose of combining the scientific endeavors of botany with the provision of an appealing natural space for the citizens of New York City.
Other The Missouri and New York Botanical Gardens are among the oldest and most internationally acclaimed of the more than 100 botanical gardens listed in the United States. Several other botanical gardens that specialize in particular areas also deserve mention. The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, landscaped between 1872 and 1898 on 250 acres (101 hectares) of land just outside of Boston, concentrates on trees and shrubs with a current collection of approximately 6,200 arborescent species. The smaller Brooklyn Botanical Garden (1910) and the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco (1937) emphasize the educational purpose of their diverse collections. The Huntington Garden in San Marino, Los Angeles (1907), is famous for its unusual combination of ornamental and desert gardens, while Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden (1935) is an important collection of tropical species. Finally, the U.S. National Arboretum, established on 415 acres (168 hectares) of land in Washington, D.C., in 1927, has an extensive collection with particular emphasis on cultivated material. These represent a small selection of the botanical gardens that have flourished in the United States throughout the twentieth century.
While purists insist that botanical gardens should serve only scientific purposes, most of the botanical gardens in the United States have a decidedly community-oriented focus that distinguishes them from the mainstream international tradition. They each combine various degrees of scientific endeavor with a strong educational and public purpose. Since the early 2000s, it has become increasingly apparent that promoting recreational activities within botanical gardens is essential to attract the public and subsequent public funding. Various forms of passive recreation have been incorporated into the botanical garden setting, including botanical art exhibitions, tearooms or restaurants, gift shops, and musical performances. Their museums and libraries also provide a source of interest, along with the many educational programs that increasingly tend to emphasize conservation and the environmental issues facing the United States. These recreational activities are designed to complement the scientific projects engaged in at the gardens and the overriding appeal of a communal property that provides a source of natural beauty and inspiration to the people.
Bramwell, D., O. Hamann, V. Heywood, and H. Synge, eds. Botanic Gardens and the World Conservation Strategy. London: Academic Press, 1987.
Houk, Walter. Botanical Gardens at the Huntington. New York: Abrams, 1996.
Hyams, Edward, and William MacQuitty. Great Botanical Gardens of the World. London: Bloomsbury Books, 1985.
Solit, Karen. The History of the United States Botanic Garden, 1816–1991. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Sales Office, 1993.
Sonderstrom, Mary. Re-creating Eden: A Natural History of Botanical Gardens. Montreal: Vehicule Press, 2001.
Tanner, Ogden, and Adele Auchincloss. The New York Botanical Garden: An Illustrated Chronicle of Plants and People. New York: Walker and Company, 1991.
Glenn Moore and Jessica Freame
A botanical garden is a place where collections of plants are grown, managed, and maintained. Plants are normally labeled and available for scientific study by students and observation by the public. An arboretum is a garden composed primarily of trees, vines and shrubs. Gardens often preserve collections of stored seeds in special facilities referred to as seed banks. Many gardens maintain special collections of preserved plants, known as herbaria, used to identify and classify unknown plants. Laboratories for the scientific study of plants and classrooms are also common.
Although landscape gardens have been known for as long as 4,000 years, gardens intended for scientific study have a more recent origin. Kindled by the need for herbal medicines in the sixteenth century, gardens affiliated with Italian medical schools were founded in Pisa about 1543, and Padua in 1545. The usefulness of these medicinal gardens was soon evident, and similar gardens were established in Copenhagen, Denmark (1600), London, England (1606), Paris, France (1635), Berlin, Germany (1679), and elsewhere. The early European gardens concentrated mainly on species with known medical significance. The plant collections were put to use to make and test medicines and to train students in their application.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, gardens evolved from traditional herbal collections to facilities with broader interests. Some gardens, notably the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, near London, played a major role in spreading the cultivation of commercially important plants such as coffee (Coffea arabica ), rubber (Hevea spp.), banana (Musa paradisiaca ), and tea (Thea sinensis ) from their places of origin to other areas with an appropriate climate . Other gardens focused on new varieties of horticultural plants. The Leiden garden in Holland, for instance, was instrumental in stimulating the development of the extensive worldwide Dutch bulb commerce. Many other gardens have had an important place in the scientific study of plant diversity as well as the introduction and assessment of plants for agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and medicine.
The total number of botanical gardens in the world can only be estimated, but not all plant collections qualify for the designation because they are deemed to lack serious scientific purpose. A recent estimate places the number of botanical gardens and arboreta at 1,400. About 300 of those are in the United States. Most existing gardens are located in the North Temperate Zone, but there are important gardens on all continents except Antarctica . Although the tropics are home to the vast majority of all plant species, until recently, relatively few gardens were located there. A recognition of the need for further study of the diverse tropical flora has led to the establishment of many new gardens. An estimated 230 gardens are now established in the tropics.
In recent years botanical gardens throughout the world have united to address increasing threats to the planet's flora. The problem is particularly acute in the tropics, where as many as 60,000 species, nearly one-fourth of the world's total, risk extinction by the year 2050. Botanical gardens have organized to produce, adopt and implement a Botanic Gardens Conservation Strategy to help deal with the dilemma.
[Douglas C. Pratt ]
Bramwell, D., O. Hamann, V. Heywood, H. Synge. Botanic Gardens and the World Conservation Strategy. London: Academic Press, 1987.
Hyams, E. S., and W. MacQuitty. Great Botanical Gardens of the World. New York: Macmillan, 1969.
Botanical Gardens and Arboreta
Botanical Gardens and Arboreta
Botanical gardens and arboreta are living museums. Their collections are plants, and like any museum specimens , they are carefully identified, accessioned , labeled, and displayed for public enjoyment and education. They provide a rich opportunity for both the professional and interested public to learn more about the diverse world of plants, how to grow them, and the benefits they offer to society.
People have been collecting and displaying plants for hundreds of years. During the sixteenth century the study and use of herbs for medicinal purposes motivated the founding of botanical gardens. The first were in Italy, at Pisa in 1543, and Padua and Florence in 1545. These gardens were initially associated with the medical schools of universities. Physic gardens, developed by professors of medicine who were the botanists of this period, served as both a teaching resource and a source of plants to make medicines. Interestingly, these original gardens are still in existence today. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the focus shifted towards taxonomy and the collection of specimens from around the world. Herbaria and libraries joined living collections as components of botanical gardens. Today, botanical gardens and arboreta are devoted mainly to plant culture and the display of ornamental plants and plant groups of special interest. Botanical exploration, taxonomy, and research can also be part of an individual garden's efforts. The latest estimates, derived from research for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources/World Wildlife Fund for Nature Botanic Gardens Conservation Strategy, indicate that there are approximately fourteen hundred botanical gardens and arboreta in the world. These may range in size from one or two acres to thousands of acres.
Botanical gardens and arboreta may be based on a design that gathers the trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants in their respective taxonomic groups. Or, they may be grouped according to the region of the world where the plant grows in its native environment. Often, plants are used to create small, landscaped display gardens such as a rhododendron, wildflower, medicinal, or Japanese style garden, or examples of gardens for the home landscape.
In addition to their gardens and outdoor plant collections, botanical gardens and arboreta may include herbaria for the collection and preservation of dried plant specimens, libraries, research laboratories, production and display greenhouses, conservatories for the indoor display of tropical plants, educational classrooms, areas for interpretive exhibits, and public amenities such as a gift shop or restaurant.
Such diverse resources and facilities require a skilled staff of workers. The most important consideration in maintaining botanical gardens and arboreta is good plant-care practices. Horticulturists, trained in these practices, spend time on everything from lawn maintenance to systematic pruning of tree and shrub collections. Horticulturists are also responsible for collecting new plants, propagating seeds and cuttings, and maintaining accurate records of growth and health characteristics.
Other types of professional staff depend upon the objectives of the individual garden. They might include a plant pathologist or specialist in plant diseases, a landscape architect, research scientists, educators, librarian, and a membership and fund-raising specialist. A director is responsible for coordinating the entire botanic garden program.
Botanic gardens and arboreta may be independently established, part of a government agency, or connected to a college and university. Funding to support their activities may be derived through memberships, fees, tax support, or endowment funds, or a combination of these methods.
see also Curator of a Botanical Garden; Taxonomy.
Paul C. Spector