What Is A Botanical Garden? (Why They’re Important)


Since you’re here, it probably means you — like many of the rest of us — are a bit unclear on exactly what a Botanical Garden is. 

Not to worry — in this article, we’ll not only identify what Botanical Gardens are, but also determine why they’re important!

So, let’s start with a definition.

What Is A Botanical Garden?

A botanical garden is an organized space, piece of ground, or establishment dedicated to growing, collecting, displaying, and often preserving a range of plant species labeled with their botanical names — especially for scientific study and education.

eucalyptus flowers
Eucalyptus is one plant species you may see on display at a botanical garden.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Well, if you want an even shorter definition, here’s the definition from Oxford Languages:

Botanical Garden

noun

An establishment where plants are grown for display to the public and often for scientific study.

Oxford Languages

That’s even more straightforward than my definition.

However, there’s a lot more to a Botanical Garden than anyone could possibly fit into a single definition. 

So, if you’re looking to dive deeper into how Botanical Gardens are run and why they’re so important, just keep on reading!

Often, a botanical garden will show off collections of specific plant groups.  

For example, you might find an entire section of land dedicated to propagating plants from a particular part of the world. For instance, some horticulture experts and teams will cultivate and nurture plants that originated in the Costa Rican rainforest. 

purple flower guaria
Guaria is a tropical plant that boasts purple flowers.

Oh, and a quick, fun fact from the Go Visit Costa Rica website:

 “The national flower of Costa Rica is called the purple country girl, or Guaria Morada in Spanish. It is a stunning orchid shining with purple hues and thin, rounded petals. Based on Tico tradition, the flower brings good luck and fortune.”

https://www.govisitcostarica.com/blog/post/the-purple-country-girl-history-of-costa-ricas-national-flower.aspx

If you love regal and majestic flowers, you can find 10 more houseplants with purple flowers in my article here.

Anyway, you might also find a botanical garden with specific space set aside for herbaceous plants and additional land set aside for woody or alpine plants. Some botanical gardens are even dedicated solely to collecting and preserving exotic, tropical plants. 

Another botanical garden you’re likely to come across at some point in is one that displays various types of succulents, including different cactus plants (AKA cacti).

spray bottle cactus
A cactus is another species to look for in a botanical garden.

Here’s the part that I love the most…

In order to educate the public — and better yet, inspire people to also become protectors of plant life — many organizations and universities will offer lovely (and incredibly informative) tours of their botanic garden grounds! 

How lucky are we to have access to resources like this?

Stunning herb and flower collections and magnificent displays of living plants aren’t necessarily the only wonders you’ll find at a botanical garden.  Many of public botanic garden establishments will offer other informative displays and plant-relevant art pieces, like botanical drawings, sculptures, and/or watercolor paintings!

Though I am going to continue diving deeper into what botanical gardens truly are and the purposes they serve, I feel this is a good place to answer another question that keeps coming up, and that’s this:

What’s so important about botanical gardens? 

So, allow me to first answer that question in a brief, concise way. After that, we’ll dig deeper into the soil.

Why Are Botanical Gardens Important?

Botanical gardens are important because they not only serve as educational depictions of the environmental challenges our planet faces — but also as sanctuaries for the propagation, collection, and protection of plant life. 

It’s easy for many people to get left in the dark about crucial world issues — especially problems related the health of our planet and its ecosystems.  

aloe vera
This all-important aloe plant soothes the skin and even heals sunburn.

For this reason, botanical gardens can make a significant positive impact by offering education on topics such as invasive insects that are a threat to native plants, endangered plant species, plant diseases, and the effects that climate change and the climate crisis have on the earth’s ecosystems. 

There are a great deal of Universities that commonly organize and host plant science education through botanical gardens.  These are perfect for anyone who just wants to pay a visit and learn a thing or two — and even more valuable to those who want to start a career in horticulture.

If you’re interested in finding a research or study program in plant science, it’s a great idea to search for universities that offer majors in Horticulture.

plumeria flower
Plumeria flowers have white petals with yellow towards the center.

If you love brilliant yellow flowers, you can find 10 more houseplants with yellow flowers in my article here.

Another critical role of botanical gardens and plant research programs is to create and maintain properly documented collections of the plants they display. That’s where botanical labels come in.

“One important aspect of visiting a botanic garden is acknowledging its plant collection.  Botanic gardens are living museums, and when you go to a museum, you want to know what is in front of you.”

my.chicagobotanic.org/horticulture/behind-the-scenes/why-plant-labels-matter-worldwide/

Gabriella Rocha, Labeling Coordinator at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Now, as far as the content on a botanical labels goes, you may see a few slight variations from garden to garden (or even plant-type to plant-type). These variations might range anywhere from one simple common name (i.e., potato) to a more detailed label that includes a scientific name, native range, cultivars, and an accession number.

bird of paradise flower
You cannot see a label in this photo, but this bird of paradise flower combines several colors in its birdlike appearance.

Typically though, in a larger and more established botanical garden, (you know, not a backyard garden maintained for just one family of people — though those are also amazing) you’ll see an accession number so that the plants can be looked up in a system and easily identified. 

If a minute ago you were thinking to yourself,  “What in the world is is a cultivar?” — It’s this:

Cultivar

noun

An assemblage of plants selected for desirable characteristics that are maintained during propagation. More generally, a cultivar is the most basic classification category of cultivated plants in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultivar

Proper botanical labels with scientific (Latin) plant names will be universally recognizable to plant experts, researchers, and enthusiasts — regardless of what countries they’re from or the languages they speak.

plant label
Plant labels give the scientific name and other fun facts about a species.
Image Courtesy of user:
Lyonothamnus via:
Wikimedia Commons:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Gymnospermium_albertii_
(with_plant_label).jpg

Latin is a truly universal language — especially when it comes to visiting a botanical garden!

By having accurate botanical labels, a botanical garden can inspire guests to also become interested in collecting, propagating, and making conservation efforts for various types of plants — particularly plants and plant families that they learn need the most cultivation and protection. 

That’s what makes botanical gardens so important!

Conclusion 

This article has only scratched the surface as there’s so much that can be said about Botanical gardens and their majesty. They are simply remarkable spots and there’s just something sacred about them. You’ll feel that as soon as you step foot on the grounds of one. 

Botanical gardens are slowly but surely doing their part to make the world a better (and Greener) place…

If you want to create your own botanical labels for plants in your garden, you can learn more here.

One plant at a time. 

If you’d like to support future plant ecosystems, consider volunteering at or visiting a botanical garden near you. Don’t forget to ask lots of questions so that you can share your findings with others!

If you’d like to learn more about botanical labels, check out this article on How To Make Your Own Plant Labels!

If you’re “Green” to gardening, or aren’t sure where to begin, please enjoy this article on how to get started with a garden!

If you’re interested in starting your own home botanical garden inside a greenhouse, you can check out some beautiful custom greenhouse builds here.

You can find some garden tea party ideas in this article.

I hope you enjoyed this article by LMadGz.

I wish you a life full of bountiful harvests!

Happy planting!

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