Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Botanical Garden in Berlin ( Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem)

View of the greenhouse at the Botanischer Garten.

Last week we went to the Gardens of the World, which are a park of geographically and culturally themed landscaped gardens. This week we went to the Botanical Garden in Dahlem and saw specimens of what seemed like every plant in the world. I exaggerate of course, but there are 22,000 species of plant represented here at the Berlin equivalent of London's Kew Gardens. If a plant isn't here, it's not likely to be in you garden centre.

The best way to get to the Botanical Garden is not to make your way to the S1 station of that name. If you try it, you have a bit of a walk. Better to get off at Rathaus Steglitz S1 Bahnhof, and take an M48 bus which will drop you right outside the southern entrance after 3 minutes. Alternatively the X83 bus drops you off near the north entrance.

The cost of admission at time of writing is a reasonable €6 for a day ticket. This includes the price of admission to the separately entranced Museum, which we didn't actually visit - there was more than enough to keep us occupied in the Garden only for a sunny afternoon. The ticket is valid for the museum for up to a year if you want to defer it.

The most engaging part of the Garden is undoubtedly the collection of 16 greenhouses. Here you can immerse yourself in a tropical forest atmosphere, though watch out for the odd rain forest shower!

The main hothouse at the Botanischer Garten.
There is a restaurant and small cafe here (and a Biergarten near the south entrance)

Sadly no tiny frogs living in the bromeliads, but there were plenty of vociferous ones in the ponds around the rest of the garden.

The range of bromeliads growing here on little more than air and moisture is amazing.

The cactus glass-house was especially impressive:

The greenhouses are only part of the Botanical Garden, which extends over 126 acres. One interesting area leads you through the plants of the Northern Hemisphere, with each geographic location given a rocky island amongst the pathways. Another area is an arboretum of trees from North America, whilst other areas are a beautiful rose garden, a water-lily lake, a Chinese pergola, and a garden of plants with medicinal qualities.

Every plant and tree is labelled with its botanical name, and you might want to take a notebook if you want to search out a particular specimen for your own garden. In fact, it is a wonder that visitors aren't bag-searched on their way out, as the temptation to take cuttings is high.

wild-flower meadow

Some kind of heavenly flower. Hey, I'm not an expert! Just enjoy.

From the Himalayas area of the garden you can see China.

In the tea-rose garden. English varieties are well represented.

Ah, an olive tree. I recognise that one.

Sadly, no Chinese Tea-Rooms here, like in the Gärten der Welt.
And no Chinese pagoda like at Kew.

The Botanical Garden is a relic of the Age of Enlightenment when every leisured amateur Man Of Science was busy collecting and classifying butterflies, rocks, birds and plants. When botany and geology and so on were in their infancy, the idea was perhaps to start by getting a handle on exactly what was out there. The belief nowadays is that there are around 400,000 named species of flowering plants alone in the world, and additionally at least 15,000 species of ferns for example. This puts the 22,000 at the Berlin Botanical Garden in perspective.  But still, the diversity of plants at the Botanic Garden is mind-blowing.

The garden is still very much a scientific institution, and is run by the Freie Universität Berlin. Therefore don't expect too much in the way of information boards or 'discovery' areas for kids. Indeed, knowing little German is not a barrier to enjoying the garden, as Latin is the predominant language.

All in all a pleasant day out for amateur gardener and serious botanist alike. Not as fun for young children as the Gärten der Welt, and the average age of visitors did seem to be towards the silver end of the spectrum. Recommended for the tourist in search of a chill-out zone, but leave your secateurs at home or the temptation might become too much.

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