What is the purpose of a botanical garden?

Botanical gardens dedicate their resources to the study and conservation of plants, as well as to making the public aware of the diversity of plant species in the world. These gardens also play a central role in satisfying human needs and in providing well-being.

Botanical gardens

provide valuable information on various plants: local flora, bonsai, rare plants, etc. They act as “outdoor laboratories” for students and researchers.

They also provide many benefits to society, such as having a positive impact on mental and physical health, particularly in urban environments where most botanical gardens are located. Nowadays, cultivation and conservation, as well as botanical exhibits and carefully selected plant collections, are what sets a botanical garden apart. Over the past 50 years, it has been increasingly recognized that botanical gardens are extremely important for conservation because of their existing collections and the scientific knowledge they possess in the propagation of plant species. Botanical gardens are the institutions that maintain collections of living plants from different varieties of plants, including ornamental and cultivated plants, wild, medicinal, of economic importance, from various geographical regions, of special interest, etc.

These gardens not only promoted and encouraged exploration botany in the tropics, also helped found new gardens in tropical regions to help cultivate these newly discovered plant species. Botanical gardens are institutions that house documented collections of living plants for scientific research, conservation, exhibition and education purposes. It also includes greenhouses, a library, a herbarium, research laboratories and several diverse resources, such as photographs, paintings, illustrations, reprints, notebooks and specimens of various types, making it not just a garden but a botanical institution. The Botanical Garden Ecological Restoration Alliance is an excellent example of botanical gardens working together to restore degraded and damaged ecosystems.

Nowadays, many different types of gardens and arboretums are grouped under the banner of the “botanical garden”. The International Botanical Garden Association decided in 1963 that a botanical garden is a place “open to the public where plants are labeled”. Most writers agree that the oldest “still existing” botanical gardens date back to the 16th century, in the first gardens created to train medical students in identifying plants: the Physical Gardens. Botanical gardens have played a changing role throughout history and continue to adapt and meet the needs of society as new challenges arise.

However, the first “true” botanical gardens with an underlying scientific basis were the physical gardens of Italy created in the 16th and 17th centuries. When you sit down to think about the origins of botanical gardens and the complexity of their changing role over time, the definitions become a bit elusive and interesting. For example, botanical garden collections can provide a source of material for habitat restoration.