A botanical garden is a place where plant collections are cultivated, managed and maintained. Plants are often labeled and available for scientific study by students and for public observation. An arboretum is a garden composed primarily of trees, vines, and shrubs. Gardens usually keep collections of seeds stored in special facilities called seed banks.
Many gardens maintain special collections of preserved plants, known as herbariums, which are used to identify and classify unknown plants. Laboratories for the scientific study of plants and classrooms are also common. The Missouri Botanical Garden, which operates into the 21st century, is home to the Center for Plant Conservation, a coalition of more than thirty botanical gardens across the country that seeks to preserve endangered Native American plants. Also noteworthy is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, one of the largest desert gardens in the world.
Botanical gardens and arboretums can be established independently, be part of a government agency, or connected to a college or university. Now, when it comes to the content of botanical labels, you might see some slight variations from one garden to another (or even from one type of plant to another). During the 20th century, several private botanical gardens were created that did not conform to the dominant international tradition. This practice has allowed botanical gardens to serve as acclimation stations through which plants native to one part of the world can be established and presented to the public in other parts of the world.
Most botanical and animal diversity is found in tropical climates, but since most botanical and zoological gardens are located in temperate countries, collections must be kept in expensive greenhouses or other facilities, which also limits available space. While botanical gardens continue to be important for recreation and education, the most important trend in botanical gardens around the world during the 20th century has been the growing awareness of their potential to aid conservation efforts. Appropriate botanical labels with scientific names (in Latin) of plants will be universally recognizable to experts, researchers and plant enthusiasts, regardless of the countries they come from or what languages they speak. The best-known examples of living collections are zoological and botanical gardens, fish hatcheries and aquariums.
Botanical gardens had now been converted into scientific collections, as botanists published their descriptions of the new exotic plants, and these were also recorded for posterity in detail using magnificent botanical illustrations. 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. Today, there are a variety of botanical resources at Smith College, including an herbarium and a small garden, which complement the study of botany. The origin of modern botanical gardens generally dates back to the appointment of professors of botany to the medical schools of universities in 16th century Renaissance Italy, which also involved the healing of a medicinal garden.
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 considered to lack a serious scientific purpose. Another fundamental function of botanical gardens and plant research programs is to create and maintain properly documented collections of the plants they exhibit. .