Botanical gardens and Herbaria are important places of systematic study and research on flora of the region. These are the places of great academic and economic importance. A brief account of botanical gardens and herbaria follows.
Botanical gardens are the institutions that maintain the living plant collections of different varieties of plants, including the ornamental and cultivated ones, wild, medicinal, of economic importance, of various geographical regions, of special interest etc. They are of value not only to the botanists, horticulturists and foresters but also to the millions of tourists.
A big botanical garden possesses plant species from several corners of the world. It also includes green houses, a library, a herbarium, research laboratories, and several miscellaneous resources including photographs, paintings, illustrations, reprints, note-books and specimens of several types, it is therefore, not merely a garden but a botanical institution.
Luca Ghini was the first person to establish a botanical garden on scientific lines in 1543 at Pisa in Italy. At present there are over 600 important botanical gardens in the world. Handerson (1983) however, documented 800 of them in the “International Directory of Botanical Gardens”.
Role of Botanical Gardens:
1. Taxonomic Studies:
Botanical gardens provide valuable information on various plants Local flora, bonsai, rare plants etc. They act as “outdoor laboratories” for students and researchers.
2. Botanical Research:
Botanical gardens supply wide range of plant species, seeds, flowers, fruits for botanical research.
Botanical gardens conserve and propagate rare species and genetic diversity. Living plant collections are the main contribution of botanical gardens and Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) estimates that there are 6.13 million accessions in botanical gardens, comprising more than 80,000 species. The conservation of living plants in botanical gardens, especially of species that are threatened in the wild, has a long tradition and has greatly contributed to our understanding of threatened species. Ex situ conservation is defined as the conservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats. Ex situ conservation, which plays an important role in saving threatened plant species, is generally associated with botanical gardens.
They supply facilities for courses in local flora, horticulture, hybridization, plant propagation, etc. There educational programs include workshops, training sessions for teachers, students, naturalists etc.
5. Public Services.
They help the public in identifying the local and exotic plant species; provide instructions for home gardening’s, propagation of plants; supply plant resource;, through sale or exchange.
6. Aesthetics and Recreation:
They attract people who have made gardening their hobby.
They create job opportunities for a large number of young botanists.
8. Herbarium and library:
Several botanical gardens have herbaria and libraries as an integral part of their facilities and offer taxonomic materials for research and education.
9. Seed Exchange :
More than 500 botanical gardens of the world operate an informal seed exchange scheme, offering annual lists of available species and a free exchange of seeds
These are some of the main roles of botanical gardens.