Botanical gardens grow a wide variety of plants primarily categorized and documented for scientific purposes. Botanists and horticulturalists tend the flora and maintain the garden's library and herbarium of dried and documented plant material. Botanical gardens may also serve to entertain and educate the public, upon whom many depend for funding. However, not all botanical gardens are open to the public: for example the Chelsea Physic Garden. According to the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation, "Botanic gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education."
From the late 18th century onward, European botanical gardens began sending plant-collecting expeditions to various parts of the world and publishing their findings. Voyages of exploration routinely included botanists for this purpose. Subsequent scientific work studied how these exotic plants might be adapted to grow in the garden's locale, how to classify them, and how to propagate rare or endangered species. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, near London, has continuously published journals and more recently catalogues and databases since this time.
Educational projects at botanical gardens range from introductions to plants that thrive in different environments to practical advice for the home gardener. Many have plant shops, selling flower, herb, and vegetable seedlings suitable for transplantation. Some gardens such as the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research and the Chicago Botanic Garden have plant breeding programs and introduce new plants to the horticultural trade.
Inside the United States Botanic Garden
Inside Kew Gardens Palm House
A butterfly on a flower at the Botanic Garden in Washington, DC
Sulphur waterfall in St Lucia Botanical Gardens
The first modern botanical gardens were founded in Northern Italy in connection with universities:
Other European towns and universities then followed suit:
- Valencia, Spain (1567)
- Leiden, Netherlands (1590)
- Montpellier, France (1593)
- Heidelberg, Germany (1597)
- Tübingen, Germany by Leonhart Fuchs
- Copenhagen, Denmark (1600)
- Oxford, England (1621)
- Uppsala, Sweden (1655)
- Hannover, Germany (1666)