Since humankind began establishing civilizations around the world, people have been setting aside spaces for planting vegetation like flowers. While most of the botanical gardens from the past have disappeared due to neglect or disrepair, there are some that have survived for thousands of years. Currently, the planet’s oldest botanical garden that is still in its original place is known as Orto Botanico di Padova (Botanical Garden of Padua), which is located in Padova (Padua), Italy. Similar, although not as old, gardens include the garden of Versailles, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, and the Sigiriya Gardens.
Orto Botanico di Padova
This garden was established back in 1545 by the Venetian Republic and has stayed in the same location for almost five centuries. With ties to the University of Padua, the garden covers about 236,806 square feet and is famed for its impressive collection and design. Due to its age, the garden has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The architect of the impressive garden was a Venetian noble known as Daniele Barbaro. Following the design of the enclosed garden (Horti Conclusi), he designed the garden to be shaped as a circle to symbolize the world. Inside the circle shaped garden is a square divided into four by two paths that resemble the points of a compass. After its inauguration in 1545, changes have been made to the general appearance but not to the core design. For example, several fountains for proper irrigation were installed in the 16th century while designs to the gates were done in 1704. Other designs were done in the 18th and the 19th centuries. In the garden, three devices tell the time based on the position of the sun (sundials). These devices are shaped as a cube, a circle, and a cylinder. The center of the garden has a warm water fountain that serves the plants.
The garden boasts of an incredible collection of more than 6,000 species of plants. The focus of the garden is on plants that have natural medicinal properties. In addition to the medicinal plants, students from the university are also exposed to a variety of poisonous and lookalike plants in order to learn how to distinguish the beneficial plants from the non-beneficial ones.
The oldest plant, which dates back to 1585, is a palm tree known as the "Goethe palm." This plant became the oldest in 1984 when the previous oldest plant, a chaste tree, which was planted around 1550, died. Another old plant is a 1680 plane tree in the garden.
At least five habitats exist in the garden. One of them is a Mediterranean Maquis habitat that has coastal plants from the Mediterranean area. The climate is hot during the summer with a mild winter. There is thick undergrowth as well as thorny climbing plants. There is also an Alpine garden habitat that has an Alpine climate and is characterized by an area of rocky debris that is held together by shrubs, plant roots, and small twisting trees. In addition, there is a freshwater habitat, a habitat for succulent plants (a desert habitat), and orchid greenhouses (for growing tropical forest vegetation).