Botanical gardens and arboreta are permanent facilities in which both wild and cultivated plant species are grown. The plantings serve mainly to present the plants to the public and to preserve the gene pool. Their meaning is pedagogical, educational and scientific. Botanical gardens have various missions. Let’s introduce some of the main functions taking Teplice Botanical Garden as an example.
Botanical gardens keep valuable collections of plants from all over the world, whether in greenhouses and outdoor displays that are accessible or inaccessible to the public. Many botanical gardens are centres of both botanical and horticultural research and they publish articles in specialised magazines.
The conservation of plants and their habitats is important as well. Starting from the year 2021, Teplice Botanical Garden has been taking part in preserving the gene pool of Czech plant species, namely the critically endangered Austrian dragonhead. These programmes are coordinated by the Union of Botanical Gardens of the Czech Republic. Furthermore, botanical gardens take part in the research and propagation of rare plants, in some cases also by reintroducing them to their native sites or creating substitute populations.
Globally, approximately 20% of the species are in the danger of extinction and only around 40% of the endangered plant species is preserved in ex situ collections, i.e., outside their natural range – for instance, in BGs or seed banks. With regard to the flora of the Czech Republic, there is an international commitment in the form of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. One of its objectives is growing at least 75% of the endangered plants ex situ.
Botanical gardens play a leading role in education, especially in the fields of botany, ecology and horticulture, not only for the broad public but also for school groups (from kindergartens to secondary schools) up to specialists in the field.
Visitors do not go to a botanical garden only in order to educate themselves but also to have a rest and relax. Where else one can find shade under the tops of full-grown trees or listen to the buzz of insects than in a botanical garden. What’s more, looking up from an engaging read to see the colourful world of plants is more than calming.
The Czechs are a nation of gardening fans – we have known that since the times of Karel Čapek and his work The Gardener’s Year. Where else one can go to find inspiration for one’s own garden than to a botanical garden in particular. Little known or completely new plant species are displayed to the visitors there.
Botanical gardens are important institutions for their hometowns. The residents seek some of the functions mentioned above, and botanical gardens can work as their showcase.