Since its founding in 1849, the Durban Botanic Gardens has played an important role in the city’s life. It began as a vegetable, fruit, and other agricultural produce farming garden. It progressed through these stages until it became a significant botanical station, gaining local and international acclaim for its research, plant collection, educational outreach, and efforts to connect people and plants.
In this post, Mrpocu.com will outline all you need to know about Durban Botanic Garden.
History About Durban Botanic Garden
The Natal Agricultural and Horticultural Society established the Durban Botanic Gardens in 1849. D’Urban was barely more than a village at the time, with three or four sandy pathways, a variety of thatched homes and huts, and a one-story house on the corner of Anton Lembede and Dorothy Nyembe Streets (Smith and Gardiner).
Cape Town’s restoration of the old Dutch East India botanic gardens in the Mother City sparked the creation of a botanic garden. Durban’s botanic gardens were originally located on the south bank of the Umgeni River, but in 1851, they were forced to relocate to the lower slopes of the Berea forest due to hippo and croc infestations. There it thrived in idyllic isolation, still frequented by roving lions while being shut off from the burgeoning town by the famous Eastern Vlei, a vast wetland that stretched from the Umgeni to near Warwick Avenue.
The Durban Botanic Gardens were founded as an agricultural research facility to test agricultural crops such as tea, coffee, and arrowroot. Sugar, on the other hand, was the most successful, leading to the creation of the sugar industry in KwaZulu-Natal. At the time, Mark McKen, the Gardens’ Curator, was essential in importing sugar to South Africa. McKen had spent time at Bath Botanic Gardens in Jamaica, so he was familiar with the sugar industry, and cultivars like Uba found their way into the Durban Botanic Gardens during his and Medley Wood’s tenure there. Edmund Morewood, a pioneer in the sugar industry, created the first sugar mill on the Colisheen Estate near Ballito, and it was via the Gardens that he established the first sugar mill.
About Durban Botanical Gardens In Present Days
Durban’s Botanical Gardens, which began as a venue for cultivating experimental tropical commodities on the eastern slopes of the Berea ridge, now include a herbarium, an orchid house, a Cycad collection, a blind garden, and a charity tea garden.
The Durban Botanical Gardens is known for its enormous collection of South African Cycad species, as well as the original specimen of a Cycad (Encephalartos woodii), which is still commonly regarded as the world’s rarest plant.
The Orchid House, named for Ernest Thorp, who was responsible for bringing it to its world-famous status as the first “naturalistic” Orchid display house, is a highlight of the Gardens. The Orchid House is open daily from 09h30 to 17h00 and is at its best during the spring months.
At the intersection of St. Thomas Road and Botanical Gardens Road is the Botanical Research Unit, which includes the Natal Herbarium. The unit’s main goals are to provide an identification service for the indigenous flora of KwaZulu Natal and to continue research into the flora of South Africa in order to compile an authoritative analysis of its results.
The Natal Herbarium houses an amazing collection of over 100,000 dried, pressed, and documented plant specimens, the majority of which come from KwaZulu Natal. From 09:30 a.m. until 16:15 p.m., the charity tea garden serves tea and small refreshments. There is also a garden for the visually impaired.
Top Attractions At Durban Botanic Garden
- Ernest Thorpe (a curator of the Gardens 1950-1975) was the main driving force behind starting the Gardens orchid collection and the Ernest Thorpe Orchid House was named in his honour in 1962.
- The orchid collection comprises over 8 000 plants in more than 75 natural and man-made genera, which are grown in large shaded nursery houses.
- Only orchids that are in flower are displayed to the public in the Orchid House. Both indigenous and exotic orchids are displayed.
- The orchid collection is curated by a specialist which is funded by the Durban Botanic Gardens Trust.
- The Sunken Garden is one of the most romantic spots in the Gardens. The garden is mainly for the display of annuals, but perennials are also featured.
- The establishment of this classic English style garden dates back to 1934.
- Constructed by a group called the “Old Man’s Gang” who were unemployed voluntary workers and victims of the Great Depression.
BUTTERFLY HABITAT GARDEN
- The Butterfly Habitat Garden is a new concept conceived with the aim of bringing awareness to the general public and scholars about the local butterfly population of KwaZulu-Natal, in particular around Durban.
- The Butterfly Habitat Garden is an open garden that has been purposefully landscaped around a dome-like structure. The plant species have been specifically selected to attract both butterflies and caterpillars, thus creating a mini ecosystem in which butterflies can thrive.
- The Lake area is a popular spot to relax and admire the birdlife.
- It was discovered quite by accident after an old tree stump was removed and the cavity filled up with water.
- The Lake is fed by a natural spring and is home to many aquatic bird species.
- The Cycad collection is undoubtedly one of the world’s finest in terms of size and age of specimens, the number of plants and diversity of the collection. The central core of the collection consists of an extensive representation of the African cycad genus, Encephalartos, and this is complimented by a selected range of exotic cycads.
- The Durban Botanic Gardens has been curating one of the rarest cycads in the world since 1848, namely Wood’s Cycad (Encephelartos woodii) which can be found growing happily near the old reservoir at the top of the Gardens.
- The Durban Botanic Gardens is home to some grand old trees that form part of the heritage landscape of the Gardens and many are over 100 years old. Some of these heritage trees include the jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) which is the oldest in the country, having been planted in 1885, and the Lychee (Litchi chinensis) near the Sunken Garden which was planted in 1880.
Open from 07h30 to 17h15
Information Centre from 9h00 to 16h30 (Closed Good Friday & Christmas)
Orchid house daily from 09h30 to 17h00
Tea Garden from 09h30 to 16h15 (Closed Good Friday & Christmas)
70 St Thomas Road, Durban, 4001, KwaZulu Natal