Monday, December 16, 2013

The Royal Botanic Gardens are a must see when visiting Sydney.

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, New South Wales, is the most central of the three major botanical gardens open to the public in Sydney (the others being the Mount Annan Botanic Garden and the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden). The gardens were opened in 1816, and are managed by the same trust that manages the adjoining The Domain. The gardens are open every day of the year, and access is free.

The gardens are situated on the shores of the Sydney Harbour, with the Opera House and Circular Quay on the western boundary. The gardens cover 30 hectares and attract over 3 million visitors each year. Situated east of the Sydney Opera House, and overlooking Farm Cove, the gardens occupy 30 hectares in area, and are bordered by: the Cahill Expressway to the south and west, Art Gallery road to the east, and Sydney Harbour to the north.

Rev: "The expansive land is most easily digested with a quick tour. The history of the horticulture is fascinating. It is a great place to go for a jog, grab lunch, take a nap, and get gorgeous photos. There is a café in the middle, if you get hungry. Its an affordable (FREE) way to spend an afternoon."
The first farm on the Australian continent, at Farm Cove, was established in 1788 by Governor Phillip. Although that farm failed, the land has been in constant cultivation since that time, as ways were found to make the relatively infertile soils more productive. The Botanic Gardens were founded on this site by Governor Macquarie in 1816 as part of the Governor's Domain.

Australia's long history of collection and study of plants began with the appointment of the first Colonial Botanist, Charles Fraser, in 1817. The Botanic Gardens is thus the oldest scientific institution in Australia and, from the earliest days, has played a major role in the acclimatisation of plants from other regions.

Rev: "The botanic gardens were lovely. Well kept and just a nice place to stroll through and relax. I only spent about an hour here which was not enough time to enjoy the whole garden, but it was enjoyable never-the-less. Bring a picnic and enjoy a relaxing afternoon!"
After a succession of colonial botanists and superintendents, including the brothers Richard and Allan Cunningham, both also early explorers, John Carne Bidwill was appointed as the first Director in 1847. He was succeeded the following year by Charles Moore, a Scotsman who had trained in the Botanic Gardens of Trinity College, Dublin. Moore, Director for 48 years (1848–96), did much to develop the Botanic Gardens in their modern form. He boldly tackled the problems of poor soil, inadequate water and shortage of funds to develop much of the Gardens in the form we see today.

Rev: "Really enjoyed our walk through the gardens and right next to the city. Such a peaceful oasis. Sydney is so lucky to have such a beautiful park within the CBD. The gardens are so serene and it was so relaxing to wander through the gardens and enjoy the peace after an enjoyable wander through the Rocks and stroll by the Opera House. Worth taking the time to organise a snack pr picnic and find yourself a spot and enjoy the surroundings."
The Palm Grove, in the heart of the Royal Botanic Gardens, is a reminder of his skill and foresight, as is the reclaimed land behind the Farm Cove seawall which added a significant area to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Botanic Gardens once housed a zoo. The zoo was Sydney's first and operated in the Gardens from 1862 until 1883, when most of it was transferred to Moore Park. During these years much of the remnant natural vegetation of the surrounding Domain was removed and planted as parkland. The Moreton Bay Figs, one of the major elements of this planting, continue to dominate the landscape.

Rev: "When in Sydney, do not miss a walk through this beautiful park. Four days later and I am still in awe of what I experienced there. The size and variety of the trees are a wonder in and of themselves, but the setting is equally impressive. MY only disappointment was that my camera battery died just as I got there, but my visual memories are a treasure."
In 1879 a substantial area of the Domain, south of the Government House stables (now the Conservatorium of Music), was taken for the building of the Garden Exhibition Palace. This building, ‘an outstanding example of Victorian architectural exuberance, with towers and turrets deployed around a giant dome 100 feet in diameter surmounted by a lantern 200 feet above the ground’, dominated Sydney's skyline and covered over two hectares. The International Exhibition held in the Palace attracted over one million visitors.

However, the building was destroyed by fire in 1882 and the land, now known as the Palace Garden, was added to the Botanic Gardens. Towards the end of his time as Director, Moore, together with Ernst Betche, published the Handbook of the Flora of New South Wales, further establishing the Botanic Gardens as a centre for the science of botany.

Rev: "Although the weather wasn't too good the gardens were very beautiful with some beautiful trees and flowers. Amazing to think that this little piece of paradise is in such a vibrant city."
Moore was succeeded by Joseph Henry Maiden who, during his 28-year term, added much to Moore's maturing landscape. He organised the construction of a new herbarium building, opened in 1901 (today part of the Anderson Building), and made major improvements to the Domain. However, the Botanic Gardens suffered from loss of staff positions during the World War I, and in the Great Depression of the 1930s, the position of Director was lost. Both the Herbarium and the living collections languished. From 1945 Robert Anderson worked to reunify the two. In 1959 the title 'Royal' was granted and the Herbarium and Royal Botanic Gardens were administratively reunified under the title Royal Botanic Gardens.

Rev: "I think the Botanic gardens is one of the best free things to do in Sydney. So much to see and it's a real haven from the rush of the city. Great place to read a book or get some sun. Easy to spend a day in here. The gardens are so large and the harbour views some of the best in the city. Please make sure you enjoy the gardens on your next trip to Sydney :)"
Knowles Mair (1965–70) achieved reunification and the Royal Botanic Gardens began its return to eminence. Dr John Beard (1970–72) and Dr Lawrence Johnson (1972–85) further developed the organisation, and the Robert Brown Building was opened in 1982 to house the Herbarium. The breadth of activities increased over these decades with the formation of the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens; educational and ecological programs; the Flora of New South Wales; the scientific journals Telopea and Cunninghamia and programs of computerised documentation of both the living and herbarium collections.

Other initiatives, the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden (1987), Mount Annan Botanic Garden (1988) and the Tropical Centre (1990) glasshouses, were opened to the public after Professor Carrick Chambers became the ninth Director in 1986.

Rev: "It is a beautiful open place to enjoy in Sydney on a sunny day. The gardens are well maintained and right on the waterfront with stunning views. I loved walking around and admiring the plants especially the chinese garden."
The Royal Botanic Gardens celebrated its 175th anniversary in 1991. During Professor Chambers’ ten years as Director, the Rose Garden (1988), the Fernery (1993), the Herb Garden (1994), and the Oriental Garden (1997) were opened and the Rare and Threatened Species Garden (1998) was commenced to further enrich the experience of visitors. The Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation was established to seek a wider range of support for future needs.

In 2003 the business name of the organisation, comprising the three Botanic Gardens and the Domain and administered by the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, was changed from the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney to the Botanic Gardens Trust. Professor David Mabberley was appointed as the Executive Director in April 2011 and commenced the role in August 2011.

Rev: "It's free to enter the gardens and it's utterly beautiful! On hot days, the breeze is terrific :) If you need some work done for a conference or something, that's really the place to be!"
The Royal Botanic Gardens are home to a colony of over 22,000 Grey-headed Flying Foxes, a large species of fruitbat. The management of the Gardens holds the bats responsible for killing dozens of trees and, in May 2010, received approval for a plan to move the colony elsewhere. In February 2011, a Federal Court ruling gave the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust the go-ahead to play recorded sounds in an attempt to drive the bats from the gardens. The sounds, which include engines starting and metal pounding, are scheduled for implementation in May 2011 for two weeks.

Rev: "This is a beautiful place, walk around, bring a blanket and do a picnic with your family with the Opera House as the background view. Incredible place"
Rev: "It's free to get into Royal Botanic Garden. The park has a beautiful rose garden where you can see different types of colourful roses with big and small petals, it's like a heaven for rose lover. Every plant here is well indicated and the whole park is so tidy and refreshing! We enjoy a cup of coffee at the bistro in the garden with beautiful wild birds walking around. From the botanic garden you can walk yourself to the mrs Macquarie point to get the best spot of the Sydney opera house and harbour bridge with the magnificent Sydney city skyline. This would probably be the most memorable photo you have taken in Sydney."
A botanical garden is a well-tended area displaying a wide range of plants labelled with their botanical names. It may contain specialist plant collections such as cacti and succulent plants, herb gardens, plants from particular parts of the world, and so on; there may be greenhouses, shadehouses, again with special collections such as tropical plants, alpine plants, or other exotic plants. Visitor services at a botanical garden might include tours, educational displays, art exhibitions, book rooms, open-air theatrical and musical performances, and other entertainment.

Rev: "My wife and I recently walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens from the Opera House to the Wooloomooloo exit. The range of plants are amazing and these are presented in a variety of well thought out and presented gardens. The grounds are maintained to an excellent standard. The harbour backdrop complements the gardens very well. It was a picture postcard summer afternoon in Sydney and it was stunning. Lots of families and young couples were enjoying the serenity of the park. A hidden gem in Sydney and one that is definitely worth the effort to visit."
Botanical gardens are often run by universities or other scientific research organizations, and often have associated herbaria and research programmes in plant taxonomy or some other aspect of botanical science. In principle, their role is to maintain documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display, and education, although this will depend on the resources available and the special interests pursued at each particular garden.

The origin of modern botanical gardens can be traced to European medieval medicinal gardens known as physic gardens, the first of these being founded during the Italian Renaissance in the 16th century.

Rev: "I took the 10.30am tour with a very experienced volunteer guide. She took us around the gardens to points of interest explaining things along the way, she was very knowledgeably indeed. We started with around 18 people but had nearer 30 by the end! It was a good way of finding where you wanted to explore on your own afterwards. As a plantaholic I found it very good indeed."
This early concern with medicinal plants changed in the 17th century to an interest in the new plant imports from explorations outside Europe as botany gradually established its independence from medicine. In the 18th century, systems of nomenclature and classification were devised by botanists working in the herbaria and universities associated with the gardens, these systems often being displayed in the gardens as educational "order beds".

Rev: "Plenty of lovely walks and seating and such a lovely ambience. A great place for a rest from "touristing" if you need it, and I imagine if you lived in Sydney it would be a lovely place for picnics and a romantic stroll. Like all the information about the trees, but would have liked to see the dates some of the huge trees were planted to get an idea of their age. Also love the sign that says please walk on the grass, smell the roses and hug the trees. Well done to the staff and the Friends of the Garden. Sadly missed the free guided walks, but we will be back."
With the rapid rise of European imperialism in the late 18th century, botanic gardens were established in the tropics, and economic botany became a focus with the hub at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London. Over the years, botanical gardens, as cultural and scientific organisations, have responded to the interests of botany and horticulture. Nowadays, most botanical gardens display a mix of the themes mentioned and more; having a strong connection with the general public, there is the opportunity to provide visitors with information relating to the environmental issues being faced at the start of the 21st century, especially those relating to plant conservation and sustainability.

Rev: "What a superb space. Sits between the City towers and the harbour water. Beautiful green space teaming with willdlfe and local life (parties and weddings at the weekend) Wonderful arrray of plants. I loved the shop and cafe selection Watch out for the cheeky birds!"
Worldwide, there are now about 1800 botanical gardens and arboreta in about 150 countries (mostly in temperate regions) of which about 400 are in Europe, 200 in North America, 150 in Russia, and an increasing number in East Asia. These gardens attract about 150 million visitors a year, so it is hardly surprising that many people gained their first exciting introduction to the wonders of the plant world in a botanical garden. Historically, botanical gardens exchanged plants through the publication of seed lists (these were called Latin: Indices Seminae in the 18th century). This was a means of transferring both plants and information between botanical gardens.

Rev: "Walking through the Gardens was the shortest route from our hotel to the Opera House and other attractions and we found this one of the highlights of our stay in Sydney. There was so much to see from the fantastic trees and plants, to the birds and other wildlife, to the sculptures, to the views of the harbour. Each of the many pathways revealed new treasures and it cost not a penny. The fruit bats are still there; they descend on the fig trees at dusk."
This system continues today, although the possibility of genetic piracy and the transmission of invasive species has received greater attention in recent times. The International Association of Botanic Gardens was formed in 1954 as a worldwide organisation affiliated to the International Union of Biological Sciences. More recently, coordination has also been provided by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), which has the mission "To mobilise botanic gardens and engage partners in securing plant diversity for the well-being of people and the planet".

Rev: "It should be noted, aside from flying, i love plants. I could have spent all day here. We wandered about for at least 90 minutes - walked the whole way around on amazing paths, viewed the harbour and the Opera house from the other side, sat in Mrs. MacQuaries chair and soaked up the southern hemisphere beauty. Lots of places to sit, eat, walk, and parking isn't half bad either. Free."
BGCI has over 700 members mostly botanic gardens in 118 countries, and strongly supports the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation by producing a range resources and publications, and by organizing international conferences and conservation programs. Communication also happens regionally. In the United States, there is the American Public Gardens Association (formerly the American Association of Botanic Gardens and Arboreta), and in Australasia there is the Botanic Gardens of Australia and New Zealand (BGANZ).

The history of botanical gardens is closely linked to the history of botany itself. The botanical gardens of the 16th and 17th centuries were medicinal gardens, but the idea of a botanical garden changed to encompass displays of the beautiful, strange, new and sometimes economically important plant trophies being returned from the European colonies and other distant lands. Later, in the 18th century, they became more educational in function, demonstrating the latest plant classification systems devised by botanists working in the associated herbaria as they tried to order these new treasures. Then, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the trend was towards a combination of specialist and eclectic collections demonstrating many aspects of both horticulture and botany.

There are currently about 230 tropical botanical gardens with a concentration in southern and south-eastern Asia. The first botanical garden founded in the tropics was the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden in Mauritius, established in 1735 to provide food for ships using the port, but later trialling and distributing many plants of economic importance. This was followed by the West Indies (Botanic Gardens St. Vincent, 1764) and in 1786 by the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden in Calcutta, India founded during a period of prosperity when the city was a trading centre for the Dutch East India Company.

Rev: "This is a great place to walk along the harbor and by the Opera House. There was a private function. I walked by, a police officer sopped me, but she was friendly and told me to wait while she literally RAN OVER and got me a map. They have some eateries too....and varied gardens. There are signs posted about. You can spend hours here. Bring a blanket, have a picnic."
Other gardens were constructed in Brazil (Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro, 1808), Sri Lanka (Botanical Garden of Peradeniya, 1821 and on a site dating back to 1371), Indonesia (Bogor Botanical Gardens, Kebun Raya Cibodas, 1817), and Singapore (Singapore Botanical Gardens, 1822). These had a profound effect on the economy of the countries, especially in relation to the foods and medicines introduced. The importation of rubber trees to the Singapore Botanic Garden initiated the important rubber industry of the Malay Peninsula. At this time also, teak and tea were introduced to India and breadfruit, pepper and starfruit to the Caribbean.

Rev: "This is a lovely park, lots of well tended beds of flowers and shrubs, a few years back there were fruit bats hanging from the trees but these have gone now but there is still a lot of interesting places to visit within the park, best on a sunny day."
Included in the charter of these gardens was the investigation of the local flora for its economic potential to both the colonists and the local people. Many crop plants were introduced by or through these gardens often in association with European botanical gardens such as Kew or Amsterdam and included cloves, tea, coffee, breadfruit, cinchona, sugar, cotton, palm oil and Theobroma cacao (for chocolate). During these times, the rubber plant was introduced to Singapore.

The first botanical gardens in Australia were founded early in the 19th century. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, 1816; the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, 1818; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, 1845; Adelaide Botanic Gardens, 1854; and Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, 1855. These were established essentially as colonial gardens of economic botany and acclimatisation. The Auburn Botanical Gardens, 1977, located in Sydney's western suburbs, are one of the popular and diverse botanical gardens in the Greater Western Sydney area.

Rev: "You are encouraged to walk on the grass, smell the roses and get up close to the plants. Fantastic trees - and the views to the harbour are the icing on the cake."


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