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 specimen object or organism under consideration accessioned made a detailed record of an acquistion
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 prun ing 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 propagate to create more of through sexual or asexual reproduction
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