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The Garden
History | Botanical Gardens | Behaviour | Garden Map

 

What are botanical gardens for?

When we asked various groups of visitors to the Garden (elementary and secondary school pupils, groups of other members of the public) what they thought a botanical garden was, and what it was for, we tended to receive the answer: this is a place where plants are cultivated.   When we asked what the difference was between any city gardens and a botanical garden, we usually obtained incomplete and unclear answers. Most of our visitors are of the opinion that the task of people employed in botanical gardens is just to plant flowers and water them. This, of course, is not the case.  You will see that the work and the importance of botanical gardens are much wider.   

 
History of botanical gardens in Europe
 
The basic mission of botanical gardens in the last five centuries of their existence in Europe has changed and been adapted to the needs of society and the time in which they were at work.  The oldest of all the European botanical gardens was founded in 1543 in Pisa, for the sake of medicinal herbs for the medical studies of the university.  Other gardens founded later too, in the 16th and 17th centuries, raised mainly medicinal plants.  In the 18th and 19th century a start began on the cultivation of plants that were not medicinal, and the most important activity of the botanical gardens of that time was to investigate the relationships of kinship among plants and to assign a learned Latin name to each plant species.

Pisa - the oldest European botanical garden (graphic)

At that time the first gardens were founded in the European colonies, in which at the beginning plants were grown for their exotic spices, fruits and timber.   In parallel with the acquisition of knowledge about many species of plants from distant regions of the world, these were gradually introduced to and raised in Europe as well. The cultivation of these new and attractive plants encouraged the development of horticulture in the botanical gardens. It can be said that in the 19th and the first part of the 20th century the value of botanical gardens was measured by the numbers of the collection of live plants and the number of plants in herbaria, both exotic and of the local flora.   After this, various strictly specialised gardens gradually started developing, known for their large and valuable collections of given groups of plants (such as orchids, palms, rhododendrons, roses, alpines, cacti and so on).  In the last few decades, since the rapid development of civilisation has started to become a threat to nature, university botanical gardens world-wide have devoted most of their attention to the cultivation and   protection of domestic and indigenous plant species.   And so today, botanical gardens are involved in all the world programmes for the protection of nature and the preservation of biodiversity.
 

Botanical Garden of the Faculty of Science (Zagreb University)
 

Our homeland, Croatia, although it is a small country in European terms, has a very rich an interesting flora: it consists of about 5500 species of ferns and spermatophytes (seed-bearing plants).  In order for this richness to be preserved, our Botanical Garden too, together with other expert and scientific institutions, has to a great extent devoted itself to research into, and the cultivation and protection of, Croatian indigenous plants, as well as to the provision of information and to ecological education, of both our students and scientists, as well as of other visitors to the Garden. Unfortunately, the dilapidation of our facilities (particularly the glasshouses) and the lack of money and space for new plants have very much stood in the way of the fulfilment of this mission.
 

In spite of everything, though, the Garden and its staff are doing their level best to perform all their tasks:
 
we investigate plant species in natural habitats and collect seeds for the sake of the cultivation of plants in the Garden
 
- we  cultivate experimental plants needed for research (plant physiology, systematics, morphology, plant virology and so on)
 
- we run a small laboratory for in vitro vegetative reproduction of plants and the germination of seeds
 
- we renew our plant collections by exchanging seeds with some three hundred botanical gardens all round the world
 
- we work together with our national parks and nature parks, setting up contacts and collaborating with colleagues from the botanical gardens of nearby countries
 
- each year we print  the Delectus seminum, a little catalogue of the seeds we offer for exchange with other botanical gardens in the world
 
- we procure the necessary new scientific literature
 
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we issue postcards with motifs of the Garden and of our protected and rare wild plants, and publish prospects about the Garden etc.
 

- we organize exhibitions and popular lectures in the exhibition pavilion

 

   


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last change: 10/10/2007
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