Upon entering this lush establishment, one is struck by the unending variety of vegetation and wildlife laid before ones eyes. Hard to believe that many of these plants are endangered in their native haunts and, indeed, this botanical garden, as with many world wide, is threatened with extinction as well. A frightening thought for any lover of the botanical world when such venerable institutions, treasure troves of knowledge and continuing research are arbitrarily set upon the brink of extinction through short-sighted politics, but this is not the reason for this photo essay directly.
Established as a kitchen garden in 1679, this, the second largest botanical garden in the world, Kew Gardens in England being the largest, developed over the following two centuries until, in 1879, the Royal Botanical Museum was founded, to house the research which had been collected over the previous epochs. Today, an impressive, documented collection of plants encompassing all areas of botany is on perpetual display, in gardens, landscapes and, of course, the exotic greenhouses, which must be seen to be believed. Following the traditions set in this last century, the greenhouse complex is laid out in geographic and climate zones, allowing realistic displays of what one may find in nature, keeping in mind, this is a garden and can never compare with nature's diversity and largesse.
The great house in the centre is home to massive palms, rock cliffs with waterfalls, swaying vines festooned with colourful blossoms, giant timber bamboo and epiphytes of all kinds tucked away as nature intended. Bromeliads, epiphytic cactus, ferns and, of course, orchids hang as jewels from every possible support, allowing the careful observer to better understand their ecological niches. A cut-away display of timber bamboo sets this giant grass into it's proper proportions, never again to be confused with the familiar garden varieties. The soft bluish tones of the great culms remind one of plum bloom and, despite the size, a relation to our humble lawns is easily imagined.
No botanical garden would be worth its salt without a Victoria House and Berlin has one in a grand style! The main basin fills the centre stage, traversed by a bamboo bridge to allow one full immersion into the sweltering tropical ambience and providing a wonderful vantage point over Victoria amazonica, V. cruziana, Nymphaea gigantea, as well as various smaller tropical lilies. Here was the most popular photo opportunity in the complex! The light shimmering across the water, reflecting the intricate roof-lattice of the glass house making for an interesting simile, as these structures were originally inspired by the leaf framework of the very plants they now house. An over-turned leaf was presented to the observer on the stone floor making this comparison unavoidable. Such simple gestures on the part of the gardeners make one's visit here just that bit more special.
the main basin are smaller pools, each with a single wild species
of Nymphaea bringing the visitor in intimate contact with the
fascinating leaf patterns and flower forms. While parting the
stems of lush papyrus stands, I found Crinums growing
in half sun and a small pool filled with the curious Hydrocleys
nymphoides, a creeping member of the water lily clan with
butter yellow poppy-like blossoms. A fascinating discovery.
The hardy lilies are housed in ponds before the main glass house, where they are allowed to bask in the sun at the top of the main walkway. The entire effect harks back to the grand days of exploration, when the natural world was still largely unknown and head-hunters were a real concern!
The web pages for the Berlin Botanical Garden are available
in English as well as German at www.bgbm.org/bgbm and well worth visiting!
from Berlin Botanical Gardens by Jamie Vande