Africa’s Oldest Surviving Botanic Garden
For more than 450 years, botanic gardens have been at the forefront of human understanding and knowledge of plants and the environment in which they live. The Durban Botanic Gardens is currently the oldest surviving botanic garden on the African continent and our City’s oldest public institution. It was developed in 1849 as a botanic station for the trial of agricultural crops. Today the Gardens has progressed as part of a network of botanic gardens internationally to focus on core areas of biodiversity, education, heritage, research, horticultural excellence and green innovation.
The Gardens maintains both indigenous and exotic plant collections from the sub-tropics characterized by a good number of majestic tree species that dominate the landscape. The Gardens is responsible for a good number of conservation significant and threatened plant collections such as cycads and palms.
The Garden’s main plant collections are cycads, orchids, bromeliads and palms. The Garden also has a unique selection of trees from all over the world. There are more than eighty heritage trees which, in many instances, exceed one hundred years old and therefore have historic value.
Our education programmes include curriculum-linked schools guided programmes, permaculture courses, schools greening, a public lecture series programme and an alien invasive plant garden. Environmental Education Guides are trained at the Garden in environmental interpretation & guiding skills, as well as the natural and cultural heritage of the Gardens. Permaculture food garden programmes help promote food sovereignty the idea that food should be both nutritionally and culturally significant. Theme-based garden tours are run regularly at the gardens which include topics like: Heritage trees, and People & Plants. The William Poulton Library was established in 1990 and remains unsurpassed in the City as a specialist horticultural collection.
Being over 150 years in age, the Gardens play a unique role in eThekwini’s cultural landscape with substantial national and international tourism value. The Durban Botanic Gardens Trust is an independent fund raising organization that aims to support the Durban Botanic Gardens with botanical and horticultural development,maintenance and capacity development in order to ensure that this unique place of botanical heritage is sustained and made broadly accessible for future generations. Generations of curators have left an invaluable resource in the form of plant collections at the Garden.
Our collections, especially the major collections of cycads and palms in the Gardens, offer a rich range of material for researchers and students from various disciplines; the Gardens work actively with the (KwaZulu- Natal) (KZN)Herbarium, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Durban University of Technology (DUT). Key research programmes include:
1. The Stangeria project;
2. Sandstone Sourveld research programme;
3. City Micropropagation Laboratory;
4. KZN Herbarium;
5. UKZN Department of Life Sciences;
Horticultural excellence, as an applied science, sustains the living plant collections of the Gardens. A School of Horticulture was set up several years ago in partnership with the Durban University of Technology’s Horticulture Department. The Garden provides the best opportunity to develop young horticulturists. The Gardens has also won a few Chelsea flower show awards which are a testament to our place in international horticultural excellence. The eminent Garden Window Project will promote horticultural excellence in a range of plant related facilities at the Gardens. Its aim is to address problems with urban greening, medicinal plants and food gardens.
The future of the Gardens will focus on innovative responses to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) and linking ideas within horticulture to ecosystem services.