According to Wikipedia's definition, botanical gardens are "well-tended parks displaying a wide range of plants labelled with their botanical names. They may contain specialist plant collections such as cacti and succulent plants, herb gardens, plants from particular parts of the world, and so on." Although the above definition is true, it hardly begins to describe the wonder and awe you'll experience when visiting a botanical garden. If you have never had the chance to pay one a visit, here are 5 great reasons to go.
Botanical Gardens Through the Ages
Gardens designed for the study of plants date back to as early as 340 B.C. Early gardens designed for the public, however, can be traced to European medieval medicinal gardens known as physic gardens, the first appearing in the 16th century during the Italian Renaissance. In these early forms of botanical gardens, plants were collected and cataloged mainly for their medicinal value. Over the centuries, the collection and study of plants shifted from the medicinal role they play, to the importance of plants economically.
Today, botanical gardens have a strong connection with science, conservation, and sustainability. They provide visitors with a place to unwind and relax, while conveying information relating to the important scientific and environmental issues we face in the 21st century.
Five Great Reasons to Visit a Botanical Garden
- Access to Unique Plant Collections and Varieties: At the heart of every botanical garden is its unique collection of plants, and the opportunity for visitors to get a close-up look at interesting plant species they may not otherwise be able to see. Some botanical gardens exist for the sole purpose of acquiring and maintaining large collections of regional native species (e.g. prairie plants, alpine plants, or desert plants). Others specialize in tropical plants, medicinal plants, rare and endangered species, or plants of historical significance.
- The Discovery of New Ideas and Information: Botanical gardens work hard to instill an appreciation for the role plants play in supporting the Earth's ecosystem and the quality of human life. One way they do this is by offering a wide array of educational programs to their visitors. From basic gardening to botanical sketching, you'll find classes and plant-based education programs geared for every interest and every age. Workshops and lecture series cover topics ranging from bulb planting and plant breeding, to photography and how to make a rain barrel.
Many of the classes also have a family focus. At the Chicago Botanic Garden families can take weekend classes that investigate insects, make art out of plants, or learn how our favorite kinds of ice cream are flavored by plants. The Missouri Botanical Garden even offers an 8 week fitness class called "strollerobics." For botanical gardens that house libraries, visitors also gain access to thousands of plant-related books, periodicals, videos, DVDs, slides, and nursery catalogs.
- Inexpensive (or Free) Admission to Special Events: Throughout the year, botanical gardens host numerous festivals and special events that are open to the public. These may include flower shows, art exhibits, concerts, plant sales, holiday-themed parties, book signings, or presentations from nationally or internationally known speakers. Many of these events are free to the general public, or at least free with the price of a membership.
- The Opportunity to Support Plant Conservation: According to Botanical Gardens Conservation International, it is estimated that there are 270,000 plant species in the world, and one in eight are threatened with extinction. Current threats to plant diversity include habitat loss and degradation, the introduction of alien species, over-exploitation, pollution and disease, and global climate change. By visiting a botanical garden, not only are you are helping support the important conservation work being done to preserve and protect the world's plant species, but you're helping to address poverty and human well-being.
- A Temporary Escape from the Blahs: Probably the best reasons to visit a botanical garden is to simply slow down and reconnect with the natural world. Got the winter gardening blues? Strolling through an indoor arboretum filled with blooming tropical plants can be a great elixir.
Nearly every major city has a botanical garden, which is wonderful for urban populations that don't ordinarily have access to a lot of green space. A trip to a botanical garden can be relaxing, inspiring, educational, and a good way to get a quick gardening fix while you're waiting for spring. And who knows, you may even walk away with new interests, ideas, or hobbies having to do with the natural environment.
December 14, 20130 found this helpful
I love this post and what a great idea! A resource I've never even thought of exploring. Thank you so much for posting this article.