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Padua’s Botanical Garden, the world’s oldest, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Wednesday, 09 February 2022 09:48

In 1997 Padua’s Botanical Garden was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. This was the first of the world’s botanical gardens and is at cradle of science, scientific knowledge and of insight into the relationships between nature and culture. It has largely contributed to the progress of numerous modern scientific disciplines, in particular botany, medicine, chemistry, ecology and pharmacy.

The world’s oldest university botanical garden

It was founded in 1545 and is therefore the world's oldest university botanical garden that has maintained its original location and structure, and for this reason it was added to the World Heritage List.

Practical and theoretical training in medicinal plants

In the Middle Ages medicinal plants were the primary therapeutic resource, so it was necessary to establish a Horto where medical students could receive both practical and theoretical training in recognizing and learning about medicinal plants. Alas, as their use was based on the interpretation of ancient Greek, Latin, and Arabic medical written texts, errors in interpretation and identification of the described species were common, resulting in negative or ineffective outcomes for their use in medicine.

The mother of all botanical gardens

It was a popular destination for foreign students and scholars visiting Italy, who saw it as a model to follow in the creation of similar gardens in their own countries. As a result, the Padua’s garden is known as "the mother" of all botanical gardens. Ginkgo biloba, magnolia, potato, jasmine, acacia and sunflower, lilac, rhubarb, and Persian cyclamen, for a total of about 70 species, have all been introduced to and spread in Italy thanks to this garden.

The Hortus Sphaericus

The so-called Hortus Sphaericus, which is about 85 meters in diameter, is the garden's original nucleus. The circular shape and the distinctive geometric division that divides the area has many Renaissance references and cosmological symbols. One of the trees in the garden is a St. Peter's palm. It is known as Goethe's palm as it inspired the German writer with a theory on plant metamorphosis,  and it is the oldest plant in the garden, dating back to 1585.

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