Botanical Gardens

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Botanical Gardens


scientific research, educational aid, and cultural enlightenment institutions that cultivate and study plants and disseminate botanical knowledge.

Botanical gardens are based on collections of live plants grown in open soil and greenhouses and used for research and the organization of exhibits. Geographical and tax-onomic principles are most widely used in the placing of the collections. In many botanical gardens there are sections for trees (dendrariums), sections for mountain vegetation (al-pinariums), and exhibits of useful plants (including medicinal, food, technological, and decorative plants). In the largest botanical gardens up to 20,000 or 30,000 species of plants are concentrated. The basic research task of botanical gardens is to find new useful plants and introduce them into cultivation.

Historically, botanical gardens were the first scientific botanical centers. Many of them are essentially multipurpose institutes that carry on research in several fields of botany. Others are more or less specialized in subject or purpose.

In Western Europe the forerunners of botanical gardens were monastery gardens (beginning in the fourth century) in which medicinal plants were cultivated. The first botanical gardens were founded in Italy in the 14th century (Salerno, 1309; Venice, 1333). In the 16th-17th centuries botanical gardens were founded in France, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Sweden, and other countries. During this period botanical gardens lost their purely medicinal character, and their functions became the collection of local and foreign plants in general (sometimes with the goal of the introduction and acclimatization of plants) and the description and classification of them. The most famous European botanical gardens are in Kew (London), where 25,000 species are gathered; Edinburgh (35,000 species); Uppsala (10,000 species), where C. Linnaeus worked; Utrecht (10,000 species); Brussels (13,500 species); West Berlin (18,000 species); Geneva (15,000 species); and other cities.

In North and South America the first botanical gardens were founded in the 18th century. The most famous botanical gardens are in New York (New York Botanical Garden, 15,000 species; Brooklyn Botanical Garden, 8,000 species); Montreal (20,000 species); and Rio de Janeiro (7,500 species). In the 18th and 19th centuries botanical gardens were founded in colonial countries, where they played a large role in the study of the plant kingdom of the tropics and the introduction of useful plants. Among them the most famous are in Calcutta (India), Bogor (Indonesia), and Peradeniya (Ceylon).

In Russia the forerunners of botanical gardens were the pharmaceutical gardens in Moscow (1706; now a branch of the Botanical Garden of Moscow University), Lubny (1709), and St. Petersburg (1714; beginning in 1823, the Imperial Botanical Garden; now the Botanical Garden of the Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR [AN SSSR]). At first they cultivated only medicinal plants, but gradually they began to collect other wild and cultivated species from various regions of Russia, particularly Siberia, and foreign countries. At the same time private botanical gardens of landowners who were amateur botanists were founded (the Demidov garden in Moscow, 1756, and the Razumovskii garden in Gorenki, 1798). In the 19th century botanical gardens were established at universities (Iur’ev, 1803; Kharkov, 1804; Kazan, 1806; Kiev, 1835; Odessa, 1865; Tomsk, 1880; and others). The founding of botanical gardens in the southern regions of Russia had special significance. These gardens became centers for the introduction of subtropical plants (the Nikitskii Botanical Garden in the Crimea, 1812; Sukhumi Botanical Garden, 1840; Tbilisi Botanical Garden, 1845; and Batumi Botanical Garden, 1912).

In the USSR there are more than 100 botanical gardens (1969) in all the natural zones and Union republics. Independent of their departmental subordination, the activity of the botanical gardens is coordinated by the Council of Botanical Gardens of the USSR, which was organized under the Main Botanical Garden of the AN SSSR in Moscow, which had been founded in 1945. In addition to the above-mentioned gardens, famous botanical gardens include the Main Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR in Alma-Ata (1933); the Central Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Turkmen SSR in Ashkhabad (1929); the Far Eastern Botanical Garden of the Far Eastern branch of the AN SSSR in Vladivostok (1948); the Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Tadzhik SSR in Dushanbe (1934); the Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR in Yerevan (1935); the Ukrainian Republic Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR in Kiev (1935), which has rich geographical exhibits; the Polar Alpine Botanical Garden of the Kol’sk Branch of the AN SSR in Kirovsk (1931), which is the northernmost garden in the world; the Central Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Byelorussian SSR in Minsk (1932); the Siberian Botanical Garden of the AN SSSR (a central botanical garden) in Novosibirsk (1946); the Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek SSR in Tashkent (1921); and the Pamir Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Tadzhik SSR in Khorog (1940).

In introducing new useful plants to cultivation, the botanical gardens of the USSR pay the most attention to the complex study of the genotypic variety of original forms, selection, and the working out of agricultural techniques for the new crops. As a result of the activity of the botanical gardens, new plants have been introduced, including a tea bush, the tung tree, citrus plants, and many decorative plants. The botanical gardens of the USSR carry on a great deal of educational work, support close ties with botanical gardens of various countries of the world (for the exchange of seeds and other activities), and cooperate with the International Association of Botanical Gardens.


Veksler, A. I., comp. Botanicheskie sady SSSR. Moscow, 1949.
Botanicheskie sady mira (Kratkii spravochnik). Moscow, 1959.
Sokolov, M. P. Botanicheskie sady: Osnova ikh ustroistva i planirovka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1959.
International Directory of Botanical Gardens. Utrecht, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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