The Botanical Garden or Orto Botanico of Padua is a masterpiece of academic gardening and a site that shouldn’t be missed by those who love natural beauty; it has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997. Originally created in 1545 on a property that belonged to the monks of St. Justine, the botanical garden is known to be the oldest in the world still at its original site (the Botanical Garden in Pisa is one year older, but it was moved in 1591). The Venetian Republic had first approved the garden for cultivating medicinal plants, which at the time constituted the largest part of the garden.
Measuring roughly 22,000 square meters the garden is now associated with the University of Padua. Over the years several exotic species of plants from around the world have been added to the garden where they can be both admired and studied.
Architecture of the Botanical Garden in Padua
While the original designer of the garden is unknown, the architect Andrea Moroni was deeply involved in its construction. The design of the garden was influenced by the trapezoidal shape of the land on which it stands. The garden is actually circular within which a square is located. The square is again divided into four small squares by cross paths.
The four smaller squares are known as tiers, since they were originally higher than the paths and were used as flower beds. In later years the design and architecture of the garden has changed considerably, but the main configuration has remained the same.
Four large gates, featuring stone vases filled with plants, enclosed by beautiful iron gates were added in the 18th century. Within every square a fountain was built and also at the intersection of paths. The circular wall of the garden was also improved with balustrades featuring white columns and vases. The large, semi-circular botanical theater, which seats 100 and is still in use today, was also added.
The Botanical Garden of Padua has a large collection of various plant species that have peculiar characteristics. These plants are grown in the greenhouse of the garden or, because of a shortage of greenhosues, outside in the open air. There are more than 6,000 different types of plants that can be seen in the garden today. These plants have been arranged according to their historical, environmental, and ecological categories as well as by various other standards.
In additional to important medicinal plants, the garden also has a large collection of poisonous plants, set up for educational purposes. Some of these can also be found in the medicinal plants section, since small quantities can also generally be used for treating diseases and illnesses.
The Botanical Garden of Padua has various special collections for which it has become famous throughout the world. There is a section for insectivorous plants, which use the proteins of small insects to grow. These plants capture the insects inside their leaves to extract their proteins.
There is also a collection of plants from the Euganean Hills and the region of Triveneto. Some of the most popular collections in the garden are the collections of carnivorous plants, the orchids, the aquatic plants and the Mediterranean plants.
The Environments and the Habitats
The most noteworthy aspect of the botanical garden is that the plants are kept in their natural environments and habitats. The fresh water habitat in the garden has a collection of water plants that are grown inside tanks. The Alpine garden habitat has been designed to have a climate the same as the one found in the Alps.
Similarly, the coastal plants and trees are kept within a Mediterranean basin where the climate is hot in the summer and mild in winter. There are also many climbing creepers as well as thick bushes in this part of the garden. The orchids are kept in a habitat that has a hot and humid climate, which is necessary for the cultivation of such tropical plants.
Visitors to the Botanical Garden can marvel at the time and effort put forth to create the perfect home for these diverse types of plants and trees. The workers at the Garden take into account all the needs of the plants, including the smallest details like the type of soil, the temperature and the amount of water needed by each, so that they are able to flourish and grow in the best possible circumstances.