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The oldest botanical garden in the world

August 31, 2011

Did you know that Italy boasts the oldest botanical garden in the world? Padua, to be precise and it’s Orto botanico.

File:Orto botanico padova.JPG

Here are the geeky details: it was founded in 1545, it is the world’s oldest academic botanical garden that is still in its original location situated close to the Basilica of Sant’Antonio. The garden, affiliated with the University of Padua, currently covers roughly 22,000 square meters, and is known for its special collections and historical design.

File:OrtoBotPadova Incrocio viali.jpgThe design of the Botanical Garden is commonly attributed to Andrea Moroni, who created some of the most important public monuments in Padua, such as the Basilica of Santa Giustina, the town hall and the university. However, the real architect was Daniele Barbaro, a Venetian nobleman.

Six thousand types of plants are currently being cultivated and arranged according to taxonomic, utilitarian, ecological-environmental and historical standards. Collections consist insectivorous plants, carnivorous plants, orchids, alpine and aquatic plants, Mediterranean plants and inevitably medical and poisonous plants. Until 1984, the Botanical Garden boasted a Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree) that dated from at least 1550. At present, the oldest plant is a palm planted in 1585 called the “Goethe palm”, because the poet referred to it in his essay “The Metamorphoses of Plants”. There is also a ginkgo and a magnolia dating back to the mid-18th century, which are regarded as the oldest specimens in Europe. A gigantic plane tree in the outside Arboretum dates from 1680; it has a hollow trunk, owing to a lightning strike.

In 1997, it was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

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