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Botanical Garden of Pavia University

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Historical Background

Edificio dipartimentale

 

Viale centrale arboreto angiosperme

Pavia’s Botanical Garden has been situated in its actual location since the end of the 1700’s, after a long and complex series of attempts were made to find a suitable location for cultivation and teaching of the so-called semplici, in the Faculty of Medicine of Pavia University. The letture dei semplici were lessons in which the cultivation and use of medicinal and officinal herbs were taught to students learning medicine.  Fulgenzio Witman, who taught in Pavia from 1763 to 1773, founded the first Botanic chair and during this period was asked to provide ideas about the construction of a semplici garden in other places, different from the actual location of the Botanical Garden.

 

It was Count Firmian, the plenipotentiary of the Hapsburgs for Lombardy, who identified what would become the final location of S. Epifanio’s Church, which was related to a convent of Padri Lateranensi monks. To design the garden in Pavia, Count Firmian suggested to the council in 1772 that Padua’s orto dei semplici could be used as a model, and, in particular, that they could use G. Marsili’s experience, as he used to direct it. He actually sent a report that indicated all the features of a garden intended for teaching. Milan’s council, where the Austrian viceroy was located, also took a plan from Schönbrumm’s garden (that was being directed by Jacquin at the time), and one from the garden in Vienna.

 

In 1773 work to create the Garden started and in 1774 the Chemistry Laboratory took up residence in the building. According to the historical reconstruction made by Valerio Giacomini in 1959, in 1775, already under Valentino Brusati’s direction (1773 – 1777) and with Giosuè Scannagatta as the curator, the Garden was actually being used, whereas construction of the great wooden greenhouses, based on a project by Giuseppe Piermarini, only began in 1776, in the location of the present Scopolian Greenhouses.

 

In 1777, when Giovanni Antonio Scopoli took over (1777 – 1788), the layout of the Botanical Garden was very similar to the present one, especially regarding the buildings and the perimeter. This has been proven by a well-known impression on the front of one of Scopoli’s major works, Deliciae Florae et Faunae Insubricae, dated 1786, which is now used as the symbol of Pavia’s Garden. Under Scopoli’s direction, the Botanical Garden reached its definitive layout, which was comparable in efficiency to other famous Botanical Gardens, such as the one in Padua, which, in the beginning, provided many of the plants. Scopoli also established correspondence with several botanists in Europe, such as Adanson, Allioni, Arduin, Banks, Gessner, Gleditsch, Gmelin, Haller, Jacquin and Linnaeus.

 

The work to reorganise the Garden resumed under the direction of prefect Domenico Nocca (1797 – 1826), who took office in 1797, after leaving the Botanical Garden of Mantua. He enriched the collections through seed and plant exchanges and also supported the restoration of the already mentioned Scopolian Greenhouses, making Luigi Canonica rebuild the wooden structures to become the present masonry building. Moreover, he increased the structures for the cultivation of plants via pulvilli, sheltered by glass, which still exist today. Nocca was followed by Giuseppe Moretti (1826 – 1853), who was succeeded by Santo Garovaglio (1853 – 1882), who in 1871 obtained the Institution of the Cryptogrammic Laboratory to study plant diseases caused by parasitical cryptogams.

 

The period of Giovanni Briosi’s instuction (1883 – 1919) marked a further improvement for the Botanical Garden, especially due to the addition of hot greenhouses: two on the southern side of the Institute, in direct contact with the building, and one in the shape of a dome standing above a huge tank.

In 1943 the Garden’s direction was taken over by Raffaele Ciferri (1943 – 1964), after Luigi Montemartini (1920 – 1926) and Gino Pollacci (1927 – 1942).  He faced heavy losses in the collections and severe damage to the Institute’s structures after World War II. He had decisions to make: the greenhouses where removed from the southern side of the building, which was then turned into the monumental facade of the Institute, and the layout of the garden was remodelled following the example of the gardens of classical mansions of Lombardy from XVII and XVIII centuries. Ciferri assigned the southern part of the garden to the installation of a notable collection of roses, which are still of great value to the garden.

After Ciferri’s death, Ruggero Tommaselli (1964 – 1982), due to a lack of funds and manpower, simplified the flowerbed layout and extended the broad-leaved arboreal species collection. He increased the collections of Cicadaceae and succulent plants, even directly importing them from their native lands, where he carried out research. He also curated the building of a new tropical greenhouse.

During the direction of Augusto Pirola (1982 – 1996), new collections were introduced (Hydrangea, Pelargonium, Hosta) and the settings of the rose collections were changed. Since 1997 the Botanical Garden has been part of the Department of Territory and Land Environment Ecology, which includes the Botany Institute. In the same year the direction by Alberto Balduzzi (1997 – 2002) began, during which time the foundations for a collection of officinal plants were laid. Furthermore, very important interventions for a conservative restoration were carried out. The present Director is Francesco Sartori.

Structure and Organization

The Botanical Garden is part of the University Museum Network (Sistema Museale di Ateneo) and the Rete degli Orti Botanici della Lombardia, participating in the related coordinated activities of a museum-based, scientific and educational nature.

The Botanical Garden, founded at the end of XVIII century, covers a cultivable area of about 2 hectares. It is characterized by the stratification of historical presences, as a result of all the activities carried out in different historical moments, some of which are now in a residual state (gymnosperms arboretum, angiosperms arboretum and officinal plant collections).

 

It is now mainly organized in:

  • Ex-situ living collections of plants, such as the Rose Garden, Tea Flowerbed, Orchids Greenhouse, Tommaselli’s Tropical Greenhouse, Briosi’s Useful Plants Greenhouse, Scopolian Greenhouses, Arboretum, Scopoli’s Plain Tree (Platanus), and flowerbeds containing native plants from the Lombardy Plains;
  • In-situ living collections of plants, situated in the Integral Natural Reserve “Bosco S.Negri”, which is associated to the Botanical Garden;
  • Living collections of seeds, stored in the Seed Bank;
  • Collections of exsiccata, stored in the Herbarium inside the Department Building Annex of the Garden;
  • Integral Natural Reserve “Bosco S.Negri”, an educational centre.

 

Integral Natural Reserve “Bosco S.Negri” and the Reserve Educational Centre. The Reserve is the property of the University and entrance is only permitted for research, administration or surveillance.  It is located on the right-hand bank of the river Ticino, in Zerbolò (Pavia). It represents one of the few strips of forest left on the plain. Since it is not available for visits, its Educational Centre has been founded at the Botanical Garden, as a base for all the activities dedicated to students and the general public. Through laboratories and multimedia activities we can learn: the peculiar environment of a plain’s natural forest; the species that inhabit it, how to name and identify them; the soil in which it develops and its features. For more information about the Reserve, please visit http://boscosironegri.unipv.it

 

Seed Bank. The Seed Bank was founded in 2004, using the framework of the activities promoted by the Regional Centre for Native Flora (CFA) of the Lombardy Region to protect its own native species. It now stores both seeds of wild native species, and seeds of cultivar of agricultural interest. The actions of Pavia’s Seed Bank are carried out in close collaboration with other seed banks, using the framework of the National Network RIBES and the European ENSCONET, and in particular with the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England.  The head of the Seed Bank is Professor Graziano Rossi (graziano.rossi@unipv.it). For more information about the Seed Bank please visit http://www3.unipv.it/labecove/conservazione/banca.htm

 

Herbarium.  Pavia’s Herbarium, situated inside the Department Building in the Botanical Garden, dates back to 1780. Under Garovaglio’s direction it has been reorganized and new collections have been acquired and are still being increased. The current organization includes a herbarium dedicated to vascular plants (consisting of collections from the Lombardy Herbarium of about 23000 exsiccata Lombardy species, General Herbarium and personal collections, that can be attributed to authors such as Ciferri, Cobau, Gasparrini) and a Cryptogrammic Herbarium (made up of collections of Lichens, Mosses, Fungi, Algae and Myxomicota). For more information about the Herbarium please visit http://www3.unipv.it/det/homepage/erbario/erbario.html

Main collections

Rose garden. Founded by Professor Ciferri as a collection of cultivated varieties only, it is currently undergoing restoration. The maintenance of the Rosa collection has been advised taking into consideration the fact that its spring flowering has become a great decorative element, widely appreciated by the general public. In 1986, to give the exposition its best cultural content, the Garden’s director decided to change its settings basing it on elements more faithful to the Garden’s educational needs, showing the wild species of Rosa and its progressive hybridization steps to the modern hybrid roses. The fulfilment of the project has been handled by naturalist architect Cristina Serra Zanetti, with a request to respect the same layout of the beds as in the previous design of the Rose Garden and to plan the production step by step to assure continuity in the urban visibility of the Garden. The part of the Garden currently dedicated to the roses is now divided into three large areas: a large group of wild roses, collected in fringe beds, with species and natural hybrids named by the classification adopted for the flora of their regions of origin; the ancient roses, set in order to mark, where possible, their links to the previous sections; and the modern hybrids in the central beds. In general, all plants allow observation of great plasticity of the basic structures, which are common to the genus and the flowers’ diversity, thus appreciating the decorative value of other features such as the shape and colour of thorns and fruits, the bark changing colour with the aging of the branch and the diversity of leaves in shapes and colours.

 

Tea flowerbed.  This is where the tea shrubs (Camelia sinensis ticinensis) are kept, cultivated here since the end of XIX century. The nomination of “biological form” ticinensis dates back to Pollacci and Gallotti (1940), to remember its origins, since it is the result of an adaptation (resistant to frigid temperatures) that happened in Pavia’s Botanical Garden.

 

Orchid Greenhouse.  In the 1970’s the Director of the Botanical Garden, Ruggero Tommaselli, commissioned the building of this small greenhouse, made of glass and metal. This, and the current tropical greenhouse, is the most recent structure of the garden nowadays. It is only a small structure compared to the impressive hot greenhouses and the dome of the so-called “hot water” aquarium, previously built by Giovanni Briosi to cultivate tropical plants. These greenhouses, which hide the whole front of the Department Building, were demolished after World War II and the area, which is now occupied by the Orchid Greenhouse, was dedicated to the outdoor cultivation of tropical plants in summer. Under R. Tommaselli’s direction, the new-born greenhouse was especially devoted to cultivate the American Bromeliaceae that he was studying.  After a period of partial abandon it came to be used mainly to maintain orchids and has remained like that ever since, except for a few changes in the structure and the enrichment of new specimens. It currently hosts tropical orchids, such as Vanilla planifolia (vanilla), Maxillaria tenuifoliaMaxillaria ferdinandianaBifrenaria harrisoniaeMormolyca ringens, Epidendrum ciliare and Anacheilium baculus. Some other species come from Eastern Asia, such as Cypripedium insigneCoelogyne cristataDendrobium moschatumPhalaenopsis equestris and Vanda tricolor.  Dendrobium kingianum is from Australia.

 

Tommaselli’s Tropical Greenhouse. Built in 1974, it currently contains several exotic species of Pteridophyta, Araceae, Asclepiadaceae, EuphorbiaceaeLiliaceae, and Marantaceae.

 

Briosi’s Useful Plants Greenhouse. This greenhouse, which hosts a series of exotic fruit, aromatic wood and decorative plants, is also used as a shelter greenhouse in winter for potted plants.

 

Scopolian Greenhouses. These are made up of two buildings linked by a shared atrium. Stored in the eastern body are some Cicadaceae species, with Zamia furfuraceaDioon eduleCycas revoluta, Ceratozomia mexicana, Cycas revoluta and Dioon spinulosum specimens. In the western body there is a collection of succulent plants, with Cactaceae species, (genus MammillariaCereusEchionocactusEchinopsisFerocactus), Agavaceae, Asteraceae, AsclepiadaceaeLiliaceae (genus Aloë), Euphorbiaceae (genus Euphorbia), Vitaceae. There is also a beautiful specimen of the peculiar gymnosperm Welwitschia mirabilis that comes from Namibia. Recently, some species of genus Lithops, the so-called “living stones,” were introduced into the collection.

 

Arboretum and Scopoli’s Plain Tree Several arboreal and shrub species are hosted here. Initially there were mainly exotic species, but it has recently been enriched with several species from the forests of Northern Italy. From the original layout only a monumental Platanus hispanica, attributed to Scopoli himself, has remained.

 

Native Nemoral and Xeropyhlous Plants’ Beds Since 2004, some beds hosting native plants from the Lombardy plain, many of which are rare and protected, have been created. In particular, there are the typical nemoral species Quercus, Ulmus and Carpinus woods (such as Anemone nemorosaAristolochia pallidaAsparagus tenuifoliumAsphodelus albus, Carex brizoides, Carex pilosa, Convallaria majalis, Erythronium dens-canisIris sibiricaLeucojum vernumPolygonatum multiflorumScilla bifolia, and Vinca minor) and xerophylous plants from dry grasslands (such as Achillea tomentosaAnarrhinum bellidifoliumArmeria arenariaClematis rectaDianthus carthusianorumFestuca stricta subsp. trachyphyllaHelianthemum nummularium, Hieracium pilosellaLychnis viscariaPolygonatum odoratumPotentilla tabernaemontani, Rumex scutatus, Teucrium chamaedrys).

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