Orto Botanico Città Studi – Milano
Città Studi Botanical Garden (previously known as Cascina Rosa), inaugurated in 2001, came to life due to the reclamation of land belonging to an abandoned farmstead. A Spanish family, Marquises Rosales, from which it inherited the name, bought this 16th century farmstead, called Cascina Rosa, in 1637.
Città Studi Botanical Garden has replaced the previous experimental and didactic Botanical Garden of the University of Milan located in Via Colombo.
A key step for the creation of this Botanical Garden was the granting of land on which it stands to the University by the Municipality of Milan. The University later contributed stimulating necessary interventions. Città Studi Botanical Garden is the third academic Garden of Milan (in addition to Brera Botanical Garden and Toscolano Maderno Botanical Garden) and hosts copious types of plants representative of what can be found in Lombardy. The “new” Botanical Garden, with an area of 22 000 m2, was created to support research and education, but it’s also a place where the plants’ beauty can encourage the public’s curiosity towards the vegetal word. In particular, this garden was brought to life by recreating some of the typical environments of Lombardy, which is one of the richest Italian regions in biodiversity but has unfortunately always struggled against human impact. This Garden tries to combine all the activities of a botanical garden (conservation and regard of vegetal species) with the everyday life of a public space. The result is a multifunctional place that could be defined on several levels: conservation and management of vegetal species, research, general culture, recreation and social.
Structure and Organization
The area of the Garden is organized in different scientific and educational itineraries. There are plants, spontaneous and cultivated, mostly selected from those present in Lombardy and autochthonous species. There is a small stream and a pond that make it possible to enrich the samples of plants with typical aquatic species and ornamental species.
A strong point of Città Studi Botanical Garden is the presence of three advanced greenhouses used for university research. One of these is dedicated to the admission of some plants during the winter period, while the other two, highly automated, allow for the cultivation of plants used for advanced experimentation.
Included outside the Garden is the reconstruction of some of the typical environments of the Lombardy region and an experimental field with agronomic species and species grown for biomass. The greenhouses, in addition to being used for research activities, host several collections of plants that come from all over the world.
In front of the greenhouses it’s possible to find the most interesting species for didactic activities, previously collocated inside the Botanical Garden of Via Colombo.
Relaxation areas, provided with benches, and spacious lawns receive visitors and students; usually these areas are also used for cultural events. Lastly, a building near the greenhouses hosts members of staff and rooms for didactic activities.
Città Studi Botanical Garden, together with Brera and Toscolano Maderno Botanical Gardens, are part of the “Rete degli Orti della Lombardia” – a network of which all the botanical gardens of Lombardy are members – to collectively project and valorise cultural and scientific initiatives.
The main collections
Città Studi Botanical Garden offers its visitors the possibility to lose themselves in several environments typical of Lombardy, ranging from the Oak-Hornbeam forest to the Heathland. Furthermore, there are several fascinating collections of plants from all over the world.
The main collections are:
- Succulent plants:
Succulent plants are able to withstand drought by storing water in particular tissues. They are native to arid or desert areas throughout the world. Even though Succulent plants belong to different systematic groups, also far away, different plants have evolved similar adaptations. For example, part of the plant can be swollen to accumulate water and leaves can be transformed into spines.
The rich collection gives visitors the chances to see these incredible adaptations: Pachypodium succulentum, for example, shows an enlargement of the basal section of the stem, called “caudex”, that can accumulate water and nutrients; Stetsonia coryne illustrate how leaves can be transformed into spines that condense atmospheric humidity and protect the plant from herbivores.
The Prestigious plant is Welwitschia mirabilis, a species that lives in dry areas, endemic of the Namibian desert. It is a perennial plant that produces only two leaves that continue to grow uninterrupted for its whole life.
- Carnivorous plants and Myrmecophilous pants:
Carnivorous plants grow on poor soils and evolved the ability to extract and absorb mineral nutrients from insects. The structure most developed to attract and catch insects is, almost always, its leaves.
The Garden hosts an abundant collection of these plants coming from our region (genus Pinguicula e genus Drosera), tropical areas (genus Nepenthes) and temperate areas (genus Sarracenia).
Another kind of interaction with insects, from which both the guest and the host take advantage, is the symbiosis developed by the myrmecophilous plant with ants. Both plant host and ants profit from “cohabitation”. Ants live inside plant-modified parts (roots, stems or leaves) providing organic matter to the plants and protecting them from parasites and herbivores, while plants give shelter and protection to ants. Inside the Botanical Garden’s collection there are Myrmecodia tuberosa and Dischidia vidalii.
- Dyeing plants:
Some of these are typical of our region and others come from far away. The dyeing plants have accompanied man through a large part of history, providing dyes used to color clothes and food. There are different methods to extract vegetal dyes depending on the part of plants used. Usually the pigment extraction occurs by maceration and decoction in water. For example, red can be extracted from the roots of Rubia tinctorum (common madder) and from seeds of Bixa orellana (achiote), while from the pseudanthium of Rudbeckia fulgida and from the roots of Curcuma longa (turmeric) it’s possible to obtain different tones of yellow.
- Autochthonous water and terrestrial plants:
Here visitors can see live specimens of rare native water and terrestrial plant species of our region. Città Studi Botanical Garden plays an important role in the ex-situ conservation of these important and endangered plants. The fundamental purpose of these plants is the safeguarding of the biodiversity in urban areas, using only native species of Lombardy, obtained only from propagules collected from the natural population.
In the terrestrial section we can find Dictamnus albus, Dianthus carthusianorum, Gladiolus palustris e Viola palustris. In the water section we can find Hottonia palustris and Marsilea quadrifolia.
In this family there are different genus of plants coming from tropical areas, especially from Latin America.
The “habitus” of many Bromeliaceae is a short stem and leathery leaves that create a circle in which raindrops are collected. The most noticeable and important, from an economical perspective, is pineapple (Ananas comosus), native to Central America. Other Bromeliaceae are commonly appreciated as decorative; attracting attention all over the world is the epipyte adaptation, which is mostly expressed by genus Tillandsia.
Activities and projects
The Garden provides two different typologies of activities.
The first one deals with scientific research. The Garden provides spaces and competences for vegetal material used by several research teams working for the University of Milan.
The second one is about divulgation and educational projects, offering guided tours for all kinds of visitors and specific lessons organized for schools.
A very special event is the Summer Solstice when the Garden opens to visitors with a huge variety of interactive initiatives. This particular occasion is coordinated with the other Botanical Gardens forming the Botanical Gardens’ Network of Lombardy.
The Garden also usually participates in an international exhibition called “Fascination of Plants Day”, which takes place every two years and is always the best occasion to show the importance of plant research.