Rome Botanical Garden
Not everyone knows the existence of this little corner of paradise in our capital. Located in the heart of Trastevere, is a concentrate of distant lands: in a few steps you will pass through Japan, Brazil and Australia, until you get to a garden for the blind, dominated by aromas.
If it were not for the shot of the cannon on the Janiculum that, on time, marks 12, would not even seem to be in Rome.
The Botanical Garden of Rome is located on the slopes of the Janiculum, in the ancient park of Villa Corsini, once the residence of Christina of Sweden. The structure depends on the Department of Environmental Biology of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”.
Walk on the Janiculum Hill and the Botanical Garden
A panoramic walk with a historical flavor that you can enjoy arriving at Gianicolo from Porta San Pancrazio: here begins a path that leads to the lookout, where stands the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi preceded by marble busts of the heroes of Garibaldi, defenders of the Roman Republic of 1849. On the right is Villa Lante, now home of the Embassy of Finland to the Holy See, then we arrive at the famous Quercia del Tasso, a place dear to the poet during his stay at the convent of S. Onofrio, where Tasso died.
A corner of nature in the district of Trastevere, at the foot of the Janiculum is represented, in fact, by the Botanical Garden, one of the largest in Italy, now part of the Department of plant biology of the University La Sapienza of Rome.
From Viale delle Palme the path winds through the greenhouse of the common plants and tropical plants, to get to the theme gardens: the rose garden, the valley of the ferns, the bamboo collection. From a vantage point you can admire the typical plants of the high mountain and the Japanese garden.
The ancestor of the present botanical garden in Rome is the Simpliciarius Pontificius Vaticanus (ie the garden of the simple where medicinal and useful plants were cultivated, constant presence in the monasteries), mentioned under the pontificate of Boniface VIII.
A little later, at the end of the thirteenth century, an inscription in Campidoglio today mentions a Pomerius wanted by Pope Nicholas III on the Vatican Hill: it was still still an agricultural land – vineyard, orchard, alfalfa – on the site now occupied by the Gardens and from other Vatican palaces, intended for service crops at the papal court.
The first real botanical garden in Rome was commissioned in the sixteenth century by Alexander VI, and later rebuilt by Pius IV, who also endowed him with a guardian (who was also a guide). Pius V enlarged the garden entrusting it to the botanist Michele Mercati. After a period of abandonment, Alexander VII made it one of the main botanical gardens of Europe, using the water of the aqueduct that Paul V had led from Bracciano to the Gianicolo, restoring the ancient aqueduct of Trajan.
Although the first university professorship of botany was established in Rome in 1513 and students and teachers could benefit from their observations of the botanical garden of the Vatican, this remained however very private. The director of this Vatican garden from 1601 to 1629, Giovanni Faber, «was the first to call his botanical subject».
The first land intended for this use (still called, at the time, “garden of the simple”) was donated to the University by Pope Alexander VII Chigi in 1660, under the Fontanone, subtracting it from the pomade of the convent of San Pietro in Montorio.
With the unification of Italy, in 1883, the Botanical Garden came to its present dimension, when the State acquired the ownership of the garden of Villa Corsini.
The first director, who in the Corsini park practically abandoned had the first collections installed, was Pietro Romualdo Pirotta (Pavia 1853-Rome 1936), professor of botany at the University of Rome from 1883, member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1910, component among other things, from 1913, of the first ministerial commission for the creation of the National Park of Abruzzo, founder in 1924 of the Annals of Botany.
Present organization and present species
The Botanical Garden of Rome currently has an extension of 12 hectares, in a sheltered position on the slope of the Janiculum facing north-east and sunny in the flat part. Irrigation and some streams equipped with aquatic cultures are fed by the overlying aqueduct of Acqua Paola.
The Botanical Garden has educational functions, environmental education and scientific research. It is home to exhibitions, courses, conferences and symposia and annually has nearly a hundred thousand visitors. The activity for the schools is very intense with about 250 guided tours. The Garden is also home to highly specialized research on the ecology of the urban environment.
The garden currently hosts over 3,000 plant species. Here are just a few notes on the organization of maximum exhibition areas.
In the lower part meet:
- garden of the simple and garden of the aromas;
- aquatic plants;
- greenhouses and collections of succulent plants;
- groves of bambu, valley of the ferns.
At the top of the hill has been preserved the original tree structure, left in the Mediterranean forest of evergreens.
The area is called Bosco Romano, and from the clearings between the old oaks and plane trees (accredited between 350 and 400 years of age) you can enjoy splendid views of the city. In this area, the Fuga stairway and the niche leaning against the top of the hill are preserved in this area.
Below, in the direction of the building, the conifer collection was installed; in this area there is also an Australian Araucaria with its “cousins” Wollemia and Agathis, a giant American sequoia as well as at least 4 evergreen sequoias (the other existing redwood species), a Chinese metasequoia, also called Abete d ‘ water and some Taxodium distichum, mucronatum and Mexicans.
In the upper part are also installed:
- the rose garden
- the Japanese garden, designed by architect Ken Nakajima, also creator of the garden of the Japanese Cultural Institute in Rome.
The visit to the Garden
The collection mainly occupies the part of the hilly area and includes species of the genera Podocarpus, Pinus, Cupressus and Torreya. It is emphasized, among others, the presence of Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich, Abies nebrodensis (Lojac.) Mattei, endemism of Monti Le Madonie (Sicily) and species indicated as CR (seriously threatened) in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Agathis robusta (C.Moore ex F.Muell.) FMBailey, expanded leaf conifer, Pinus canariensis C. Sm. ex DC., Pinus excelsa Wall. ex Lamb., Sequoia sempervirens (Lamb.) Endl. (VU, vulnerable), Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.) J. Buchholz. (VU, vulnerable), Ginkgo biloba L. (EN, threatened), Cycas revoluta Thunb. (NT, almost at risk) and Cycas circinalis L. There is also an individual from Wollemia nobilis W.G. Jones, K.D. Hill & J.M. Allen, a species believed to be extinct until 1994, when it was found in Wollemi National Park (Australia).
The collection is one of the richest in Europe. The most represented genera are Phyllostachys, Sasa, Bambusa and Pleioblastus.
The presence of Phyllostachys nigra (Loddiges ex Lindley) Munro (Black bamboo), Phyllostachys edulis (Carrière) J.Houzeau, Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens (Carrière) Rivière & C.Rivière and Fargesia nitida (Mitford) P. C. Keng ex T. P. Yi.
The Mediterranean Woods
Located in the hilly area, it is a testimony of the vegetation that once covered the Colle del Gianicolo. It consists mainly of oaks, including Quercus ilex L., Quercus pubescens Willd., Quercus robur L. and Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl. Also present are Acer campestre L., Viburnum tinus L., Laurus nobilis L., Carpinus betulus L. and Rhamnus alaternus L.
Collections of great importance for the large number of entities that are grown outdoors. Among the most representative genres are: Phoenix, Trachycarpus and Sabal. Among the rare species: Brahea edulis H. Wendl. ex S. Watson, Nannorrhops ritchieana (Griff.) Aitch. Also present are Chamaerops humilis L., Washingtonia robusta H.Wendl., Phoenix canariensis Hort. ex Chabaud and Phoenix dactylifera L. Among the endangered species included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, there are: Jubaea chilensis (Molina) Baill. (VU, vulnerable), Phoenix theophrasti Greuter (NT, almost at risk), Washingtonia filifera (Linden ex André) H. Wendl. (NT, almost at risk).
The rose garden
The design of the rose garden has been traced following, through a numbering and a progressive placement, the pattern of derivation of the current roses cultivated by the first wild roses (which all have simple flowers with 5 petals). The most important of the ancient garden roses originated from Rosa gallica L., Rosa phoenicia Boiss., Rosa canina L., and other entities commonly united under the name Rosa moschata s.l. In the rose garden there is also a considerable collection of spontaneous roses present in Italy.
The Garden of Aromas
It is organized in a series of raised masonry beds that welcome recognizable species through tactile characteristics (eg pubescence) or olfactory (aroma) and accompanied by tags in Braille.
Valletta delle Felci
It welcomes a collection of herbaceous ferns, including: Asplenium adiantum-nigrum L., Athyrium filix-femine (L.) Roth, Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn, Polystichum setiferum (Forssk.) T. Moore ex Woyn., Phyllitis scolopendrium (L.) Newman and Woodwardia radicans (L.) Sm.
The Mediterranean Garden
It is organized in flowerbeds, where you can observe typical Mediterranean species (Quercus ilex L., Arbutus unedo L, Phillyrea latifolia L., Pistacia lentiscus L., Myrtus communis L.), Australian species (Callistemon citrinus (Curtis) Skeels ), species originating in South Africa (Polygala myrtifolia L.) and species of the genera Cistus, Salvia, Teucrium and Lavandula. Also present are: Euphorbia characias L., Matthiola sinuata (L.) R. Br., Pancratium illyricum L., Helichrysum litoreum Guss., Limonium narbonense Mill. and Gomortega keule (Molina) Baill.
The Simple Garden
The term “Simple” refers to medicinal plants, also called “officinali” from “officina”, ie pharmaceutical laboratory. In the “Simple” Garden the medicinal species are organized in raised flower beds, made of masonry. Other officinal species are cultivated in the surrounding area, while others are present inside the adjacent Serra Tropicale.
The aquatic environment in the museum is represented by the stream, the pond and some pools. They are present among others: Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn., Typha latifolia L. and Cyperus alternifolius L.
The Monumental Serra
It was built by the Mathian company of Lyon in 1877; hosts a collection of euphorbia, with individuals from Euphorbia abyssinica J.F. Gmel., Euphorbia grandicornis Goebel ex N.E. Br., Euphorbia tirucalli L., Euphorbia mauritanica L. and two climbers, Quisqualis indica L. and Petrea volubilis L. Next to the monumental Serra, there are two single pitched greenhouses.
The Serra Corsini
Built in the nineteenth century, it represents the first hot greenhouse built in the garden. It houses a collection of succulents whose most represented families are Cactaceae, Agavaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Crassulaceae. The presence of caudiciforms, which includes in particular the Fockea and Pachypodium genera, is valuable in the collection. There are also two pools belonging to Queen Christina of Sweden in the period in which she was staying (from 1659 to 1689) at the Villa Riario, now Palazzo Corsini.
The Japanese Garden
It was built according to an oriental garden model with water features, small waterfalls and two lakes. The following species can be observed: Acer buergerianum Miq., Acer palmatum Thunb., Amelanchier canadensis (L.) Medik., Berberis thunbergii DC., Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze, Magnolia stellata Maxim., Myrtus communis L., Pinus thunbergii Parl., Pittosporum tobira (Thunb.) WT Aiton and Prunus subhirtella Miq.
The Tropical Greenhouse
Recently built, it hosts species of tropical and subtropical environments. Inside the greenhouse the humidity remains constantly on 80% RH and the temperature varies between 18 ° C and 20 ° C, in winter, and around 30 ° C in summer. The greenhouse is organized in the following areas, each dedicated to a particular theme: species of tropical undergrowth; Pandanus; marsh plants; plants useful for humans; tropical forest; palms. The collection is a small example of the extraordinary plant biodiversity present in tropical forests. In the greenhouse there are, among others, Phytelephas macrocarpa Ruiz & Pav., Aristolochia gigantea Mart. & Zucc. and Hibiscus schizopetalus (Dyer) Hook. f. There is also a collection of epiphytes comprising some Nepenthes.
Centennial individuals of Agathis robusta (C.Moore ex F.Muell.) FMBailey, Acer palmatum Thunb., Ehretia acuminata R.Br., Erythrina crista-galli L., Nolina longifolia (Karw. Ex Schult. & Schult. f.) Hemsl., Sequoia sempervirens (Lamb ex D. Don) Endl., Torreya grandis Fortune ex Lindl., Trachycarpus takil Becc., Nannorrhops ritchieana (Griff.) Aitch., Cladrastis kentukea (Dum. Cours.) Rudd, Parrotia persica CA Mey., Apollonias barbusana A. Brown, Fagus sylvatica L., two plurisecular individuals of Platanus orientalis L., placed on either side of the “Fountain of the 11 Gushes” and an individual of Quercus suber L.
How to get there
The botanical garden of Rome is located in Largo Cristina of Sweden, 24, and is open from 09.00 to 17.30. Closed on Sundays and holidays.
During events and exhibitions, the Botanical Garden is exceptionally open even on Sundays. In the period March – October: open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 6.30 pm During the period November – February: open from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5.30 pm
Admission ticket: € 8.00 Reduced: € 4.00 (from 6 to 11 years old, over 65 years old and residing in the Trastevere district. Admission is free for children under 6 years old and for different skilled (with health card) and their companion.
Entrance for the disabled
The Botanical Garden is also one of the structures of this kind equipped for the disabled: a path has been set up and there are two battery powered means available that allow you to take advantage of the paths in the hills. Among other things, a “garden of perfumes” was organized for the blind: the classification of the plants from which they came was also reported in Braille.
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