Jackson, Botanical Garden Lecture

Great Botanical Gardens of the World:  Conserving our Global Plant Diversity

by Peter Wyse Jackson, Recently hired as director of the Missouri BG in St. Louis

Web sites:  Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI ) http://www.bgci.org/

The history of botanical gardens: http://www.bgci.org/resources/history/

Earliest Botanic  Gardens

Pisa  1543, but it was destroyed.

Padua Oldest surviving 1545

Paris 1597

Florence 1545



As time went on, more gardens have been established.  Since 1950 more than half of them have been established.

What is a Botanic Garden?  1960s “Open to the public where the plants are labeled.”

Today’s definition: “an institution holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education.

2,500 botanic gardens today.  Database online.  155 countries

Many new gardens being established today.  Thailand, China, Manizales, Columbia, Bordeaux, France, Eden Project, UK (domes)

Why new gardens?  Taken on a new mantle as institutions for plant conservation:  BGCI

Since 1990s:  many news areas of science,  seed banks, biodiversity, public education, environmental protection and promoting sustainability, linked more to local communities


c. 100,000 plants in collections

Number of visitors:  250,000,000 per year

Conservation is a key driver in BG

c. 400,000 plant species worldwide

100,000 species now threatened with extinction

2/3 will b e threatened by end of century.

International Agenda for BG, Global strategy for Plant Conservation.  By 2020 loss of plants will be halted.  He’s been working on this for the past 10 years.  Adopted by 188 countries worldwide.  (U.S. has not signed!) Global strategy for plant conservation was  adopted as part of the biodiversity convention.  United States, Vatican, and Andorra have not signed

Fear that private companies will not have the right to exploit plants from around the world, but they won’t anyway.  Countries have control over the use of their own plants.  Hopefully countries will sign within the next few years.


· Classic, multi-purpose gardens

· Ornamental

· Historical

· Conservation gardens

· University

· Combined botanical and zoological

· Agro-botanical and germplasm

· Alpine or mountain

· Natural or wild gardens

· Horticultural gardens

· Thematic

· Community

Classic Gardens:

Kew Gardens 1759 founded.  Strong influence on the world.

National BG of Ireland (Dublin)  Glass Houses renovated

Founded in 1759, government funded, C. 600,000 visitors a year, C. 17,000 taxa in cultivation, National Herbarium, Plant conservation, Environmental Education, Botanical Research, Developing models in sustainability, horticultural showcase & training, Social and community benefits.

Site goes back to the estate of Thomas Tickell’s house.  1730 Addison Walk (Yew trees planted)

New facilities:  Visitor Centre, National Herbarium and Library Building.  Prime minister was a neighbor, and he was able to raise funds by having lunch with him.

Historic Glasshouses, Curvilinear Range (1843-1869)  Wrought iron and cast iron.  Restoration 1990s.

Great Palm House (1880 made in Scotland) Cost in 1884 800 pounds (1200 dollars).  Restoration 20 million dollars.

New Organic Fruit and Vegetable Garden opened June 2008.  Demonstrations and display.  The Enclosed garden.  Established because young people are losing contact with the soil and are no longer learning from their parents and grandparents.  This garden is hugely popular.


Each major city has botanic gardens:  Sydney, Melbourne

Community Gardens in smaller towns.  Strong network.

Colonial expansion established the original gardens, but community gardens are more local plants

New Zealand

City Gardens  Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch


138 BGs now. Many est. since 1980s

Chinese Academy of Sciences has a network of gardens

Xishuangbanna Tropical BG (Chinese Academy of Sciences) near border of Myanmar (Burma)

Conservation is a key activity.  Seed bank.

Factory for medicine, from dragonsbood tree

Mauritius bottle palm

Government support over the past 20 years

Water features

Designed landscapes and natural forest canopies

New research center opened in 2009


Established to assist colonial expansion (Britain, The Netherlands)

Tropical crops and plantations:  rubber, oil palm, tea, coffee, and teak introduced through the BGs for economic reasons

Indonesia est. by Dutch Colonists


Old gardens in Saigon and Hanoi

Trend to est. new gardens for native vegetation conservation

Food for fuel, food, logs from national park/forests (illegal)

Garden of Useful Plants (used by the local people).  Identified and labeled by use.  Gardens est. in communities, to train people to take cuttings from wild and grow them locally.  New model for BG in Vietnam and India


Origins as public centers for horticulture, public gardens, and have taken on research and conservation over time.  This is a common trend in the US and Canada.  Brooklyn, Denver, Missouri


Finest is in Cape town.  Several in South Africa, each one growing native plants.

Mauritius (island in Indian Ocean) off the coast of Africa.  Home of the Dodo.  Oldest tropical BG in the world. Means to bring economic plants into the island.  Now playing a role in conservation of native plants. Many endangered and rare plants.  Propagate plants in BGF and then return to the land.

Seychelles Islands.  Many invasive plants killing off the natives.


St. Vincent BG  Oldest in the Americas, 1759 est.

Means to bring plants into the colonies for Britain

Breadfruit as cheap food source for slaves.  Captain Bly’s

US Virgin Islands


1990 5 gardens

Now about 40 in response to the environmental crisis

Rich in flora (1000 Natives, 55,000 native plants)

Oldest in Rio de Janeiro.  Others in San Paulo, Curitiba


51,000 native plant species.  Amazon lowlands, Tropical Forests, Caribbean shores, Pacific.  Now too dangerous  Most famous plant (cocaine).  Andes garden, San Andreas Is BG.  National plan for plant conservation.  He worked with Alberto Gomez (lawyer) who became plant conservationist. Created National BG in Columbia, Whitley award.  25 BG now in Columbia.

Jardines Botanicos (Network in S. America) for an international plan for conservation

Former Soviet Union

Soviet times to intro plants to improve economy.  Several gardens undergoing tough times in each of the states, Kazakhstan, etc.  Very low pay for garden directors

Central Siberian BG,  Russian Academy of Sciences.  Great forests in this area.

Middle East

Very few BGs.  Sharjah BG – U.A.E.  There is a wall today, but no garden evolved.

Saudi Arabia.  Build on natural features, growing native plants.  Project has not developed over the past 10 years.

Jordan, 7 years ago, phone call from Princess Basma (? ) of Jordan.  New National BG.  2,000 acres around reservoir.  Patronage of Royal family.  To recreate natural vegetation from all over the country.  Project is on track.

Fourth Global Botanic Gardens Congress.  (Dublin in June)

Q&A after lecture:

Your favorite garden?

Lotusland in Montecito is a great garden, unusual.

Online directory of BG around the world are available to anyone.  250,000 gardens are listed.

Canada and Mexican BG’s?

Canada:  Montreal, Hamilton, U of British Columbia,  35 BG in Canada.  Strong network within Country

Mexico:  Lots.  1990s many created, mostly associated with universities.  Growing native plants is the focus

How does our garden compare to the gardens of the world? Santa Barbara Botanical Garden – focus on native plants.  Scientific research, education, education for plants.  Closely linked to local community Santa Barbara.  Leadership, converting many gardens to grown natives for horticulture, not just for conservation.  Education FOR plants, advocate for plants.  New way of education Why is this plant important.  How does it impact on our lives?  BG as site for popularization of native plants.  Water issues in California.  Invasive plants are a problem.  Climate change can affect how plants spread.  We should concentrate on growing our own.

The importance of plants:

Plants as fundamental natural resources.  We need to make people more interested in plants. Jackson told of guiding kids on a tour of a garden, and talking and talking about the plants.  He then overheard two children:

First Kid:  Plants are boring.

Second Kid: You’re wrong. Plants aren’t boring.  Only botanists are boring.

In England, Botanical Gardens as site for elementary education.  Jackson thinks BGs should be linked to both formal and informal education.  Some programs include, Plants and diversity, climate change, linked to National school’s curriculum.  But not recognized by the Dept. of Education, the school authorities.  Local teachers appreciate them and work them into their programs.

Missouri BG in St Louis has international programs in plant taxonomy, China, South America, etc.

400-600 delegates will come to Dublin.  13-18th of June, 2010

Medicinal Plants: 300 BGs have medicinal plant gardens.  China and India use more than 5000 plant species for the primary health care.  His research interest 300 plants in Ireland used for ailments.  More or less this is lost.  Today, only 2-3 plants are remembered as medicinal in Ireland.

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