Friday, May 15, 2015

Hortus botanicus

Leiden, Netherlands

The Hortus botanicaus in Leiden is celebrating 425 years. Connected to the University of Leiden, the botanical gardens have spent the last four and a quarter centuries building and caring for an impressive collection of plants from around the world. During the Dutch golden age, many specimens collected by sailing expeditions as they explored the far corners of the globe ended up here. This included the exotic tulip bulb. Now, the gardens play a role in cultivating some of the rare and endangered species that are disappearing in the wild.

The outdoor gardens can be explored by walking the many winding paths. Follow the "systematic garden" to learn about the relationships between particular plants, or take in the colors and fragrances found in the rose garden. The Japanese Garden offers a peaceful bench where you can enjoy a beautiful collection of trees and shrubs from Japan. Continue on to follow a small woodland stream lined with wildflowers.

As you stroll through the grounds, you will see a beautiful collection of trees that have been growing for 100-400 years.

Be sure to check out the greenhouses to find tropical plants and other heat-loving species.

There are over 6000 types of orchids being studied here, and the collection is still growing as newly discovered species are added.

Carnivorous plants grow in soil that is poor in nutrients, so they eat insects instead! These plants have developed various methods to attract their prey. Some use sticky droplets to ensnare unsuspecting flies.

Others catch insects in slippery pitchers. Once something slides in, there is no climbing out...

The Victoria amazonica is a giant water lily that grows in rivers feeding into the Amazon. Discovered in the 1850s, the university began cultivating it here shortly afterwards. The leaves are big enough to hold a small child. Each flower blooms for two days; the first day it is white with a fruity aroma to attract pollinating beetles, while the second day it is pink with no smell.

The Jade vine comes from the Phillipines. It relies on bats for pollination. It is considered to be a threatened species due to loss of habitat and pollinators, which is a shame because the large hanging bunches of jade green flowers are absolutely stunning.

There is also a collection of "prehistoric plants" scattered around, consisting of some of the oldest plant forms such as ginkgo, cycads, horsetails, and ferns.

Visiting the garden in spring or early summer is a special treat with the shear number of flowers blooming. While Keukenhof (near Lisse) is famous with the tourists who want to see carefully groomed tulip gardens, Hortus botanicus offers a more peaceful and intimate setting to discover an incredible variety of plants that range from beautiful to strange.

Hortus botanicus Leiden, Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden
Open year round. Admission charged
Learn More: Website

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