{short description of image}

Achievement of New Botanic Gardens Through Analysis of Existing Parts and Integration of Key Assets to Fulfill the French-Speaking Botanic Garden Charter

Laurent Bray
Mairie de Paris-DPJEV-Jardin Botanique

Home | Contents | Introduction | Analysis of Existing Parts and Key Assets | Achievements Realized for Being a Botanical Garden | Conservation and Foreign Projects | Creation of a Herbarium, Fruits and Seeds Collections | Conclusion | References | Table 1 | Table 2 | Photographs


A characteristic of Paris is that about 400 parks and gardens depend on the city council. These city gardens are managed by the Green spaces and parks department that employs about 3.800 people. This paper explains what had been realized for the last 3 years for transforming a few of them into botanical gardens.

Our main objective was to be agreed as Botanical garden by the association of French-speaking botanical gardens. Therefore, the first step was to choose the sites that already respected the more the following guidelines of this association:

Among the 400 gardens which depend on the city council of Paris, four sites were chosen: the garden of the greenhouses of Auteuil, the park of Bagatelle, the Floral park and the school of horticulture of Du Breuil. We first proceed to an analysis of existing parts and key assets, and then we focus on improving and/or creating plant collection strategy, seed bank, herbarium and research activities.

{short description of image}

Analysis of Existing Parts and Key Assets

Living Collections

These sites already had a great number of taxa with specialized living collections such as roses, peonies or heath plants collections.

We also have living collections inside green houses, for example:

Many of these collections are registered by the «Conservatoire des collections végétales spécialisées», a French equivalent of the NCCPG.

A plant tissue culture laboratory already existed in Du Breuil and was used for the regeneration of plants safe of virus. It is also used now for the introduction of new orchids (Picture 1).


Actions in education consisted in a good information given to the public about plants :

Saying that, many things still had to be achieved to reach the commitments of a botanical garden.

{short description of image}

Achievements Realized for Being a Botanical Garden

Living Plant Collection Strategy

First of all achievements was the definition of a plant collection strategy which respects the standard of a botanical garden and with a limited supplementary cost compared to the traditional activities.

By analyzing the existent collections, the following points appeared to be corrected to reach the commitments of a botanical garden :

  1. The percentage of cultivars was much too high (circa 50%) and had to be increased in a significant way ;
  2. Origin of plants was not always well defined and the rate of wild origin plants were insignificant ;
  3. Except, living plant collections, no other collection was developed ;
  4. Accessions were not computerized.

During a mission at the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew, we had an overview of the acquisition and retention policy of RBG Kew's Living Collections. Though we do not have the willing to be a duplicate of this famous botanical garden of the north hemisphere, this strategy is very much in advance compared to what was yet realized in our garden :

  1. a good distinction was made between botanical collections and collections in support of visitor attraction, education and heritage programs ;
  2. four categories were created in the botanical collections, i.e. contribution to the encyclopedic knowledge of plants, core research support, horticultural taxonomy support, conservation.

Taking into account, our strong horticultural history, the 4 categories, except the one concerning horticulture, had to be developed. Therefore, the following long-term plant collection strategy was proposed including dead collections (fruit and seeds collections, herbarium).

See Table 1

Computerisation of Data

First point was computerization of data concerning all collections of the botanical garden: living collections and seed bank, herbarium, fruit and seed collections and library. For helping the entering of data, we have created linked tables for the following fields:

Apart from helping entering data, linked tables are also a way to reach the standardization of nomenclature among the 4 sites of the botanical garden. We are currently transforming our tables to another system but we will still be using the International Transfer Format edited by the BGCI (1997).

We also pay a great attention to the labeling of plants : family, genus, species, species author, infraspecies rank and origin are always. Automation of labeling allows us to produce about 200 labels a day (8 cm x 5 cm). All new collections have been labeled and the labeling of old collections is going on.


A great effort was made for improving the quality of our library that had been enriched with 600 references for the last 3 years. Among these new references, the more ancient book is Genera plantarum published by Linné in 1754. Such a book is still very interesting when we know that Linné has described 4020 genera from which 1200 genera are still recognized by the modern nomenclature. An other example of an old book is the one untitled "Nouveaux élémens de physiologie végétale" written by Achille Richard in 1858 where one can found a definition of a botanist : someone who can name a plant he didn’t before only by applying scientific principles". We also have the Prodomus de De Candolle in the Du Breuil library.

The main objectives for book acquisition were the following :

Seed Bank

In order to improve our conservation strategy, a seed bank was created. This year, 60% of the seeds proposed in the index seminude have a wild origin. We focus on wild seeds because the previous year 80% of them were distributed against only 30% for the cultivated origin. Seeds are collected in France or abroad in Italy, in Greece or in some countries of Africa.

Seeds are collected in France or abroad on native or from introduced and naturalized plants. When collecting seeds, we must pay attention to the different levels of plant protection : regional, national, European or international protection laws.

The Botanical Garden of the City of Paris has many links with research institutions inside or outside France and participates to conferences. We do focus on seed physiology research because it is easier and less expensive to start on than fundamental research such as molecular biology and genetic mapping.

Our seed bank also offers us the opportunity to work with universities to know for a species:

For example, germination tests were realized with the seeds of Cladrastis lutea. The controls germinate at the followings temperatures were tested: 10 °C ; 18 °C ; 25 °C and 32°C. Two treatments consisted in a 5-min bath in sulfuric acid or 10-min bath. The counting of germinated seeds was realized each day except on Sundays. Results are shown on the figure 1 : a treatment by sulfuric acid during 5 or 10 min and a temperature of 25 °C allow to reach the maximum rate of germination. 90 % of seeds germinated after 8 days. The results obtained at 32° C proved that this temperature induces a decreasing the germination rate. No significant difference was observed between a 5-min and 10-min sulfuric acid baths.

For a simple case where no embryo dormancy was found, this experiment consisted in 12 conditions (4 temperatures ; 2 sulfuric acid treatment and controls). We use more than 100 seeds in each condition to have a good statistical analysis that means 1.200 seeds. This high number of seeds could be problematic when studying endangered species germination. On the other hand, it is a non-sense to make conservation if we do not know how to make the seeds germinate.

Education and Research Activities

We do have many educational activities in collaboration with universities. For example, we participate to the on-field excursions organized for and with the students of the University of Pierre & Marie Curie (Paris). Some places around Paris, such as the calcareous soils of Vexing, have a high biodiversity and students can discover a great number of different families. The garden is also often visited by students and we welcome students for training.

For example, a study was conducted on the translocation of water in Mimosa pudica . This plant is characterized by the presence of pulvini at the base of rachis of leaf and leaflets. On this cross section of a primary pulvinus, we can see a kind of Teddy bear face due to the presence of 3 vascular bundles. At the level of the rachis, the 3 bundles join to give one circular bundle that divides again in 3 at the level of the secondary pulvinus. A current research is conducted on the nectaries of Pseudobombax ellipticum (biochemistry of the nectar, cytology of the nectaries).

The last educational project concerning living collections is a systematic garden. More than 200 families will be presented and displayed according the most recent data of systematic. Apart from explaining why and how plants are classified, the purpose will also to show to the public that a clematis is not only a cultivar but may be found in France like this Clematis vitalba. We will also show different plants from France like this Vicia bithynica or Adonis flammea (Pictures 1 and 2).

{short description of image}

Conservation and Foreign Projects:

Our conservation project of endemic species of New Caledonia in collaboration with the local research institutions was presented during the First meeting of European botanical gardens. New Caledonia is a French territory where the flora endemism : it reaches 80% for flowering plants species and 50% for Bryophyta. The endemism is correlated with the presence of peculiar biotopes and substrates. Accumulation of Mg and heavy metals (Ni, Cr, Mn) and lack of organic nutrients (P, K) are also a part of the explanation for flora endemism and were arguments for explaining the conservation of plants belonging to primitive families. Some endemic genera contain numerous species (Myodocarpus, Zygogynum, Basselinia) showing an intrageneric evolution for a long isolation period. However, most endemic genera are represented only by one or a few species indicating the end of a phylum. This project is now completed: the green house had been restored and filled with a ground consisting in 50% of ultramaphic soils that were shipped from New Caledonia and all the plants have been displayed and have a wild origin.

Another project is going on in collaboration with the university of Nankeen in China. During a mission, plants of wild origin were collected and are growing well in our green houses.

The last project on living collections concerns a systematic garden at the place of these old greenhouses. More than 200 families will be presented and displayed according the most recent data of systematic. Apart from explaining why and how plants are classified, the purpose will also to show to the public that clematis is not only this cultivar but may be like this Clematis vitalba . We will show different plants from France like this Vicia bithynica or Adonis flammea.

We also do expertise missions in countries such as Burkina Faso or Senegal. For this last country, we were asked an evaluation report for the restoration of the herbarium of the Institut fondamental de l’Afrique noire (Fundamental Institute of Black Africa).

Another example of a co-operation with an African country is with Tunisia. Two persons of the National Institute of Agronomy in Tunisia have spent a month in our botanical garden for the analysis of ecological data obtained for 10 years in different protected areas of this country.

{short description of image}

Creation of a Herbarium, Fruits and Seeds Collections:

The Botanical Garden of the City of Paris also manages «dead» collections such as fruit and seed collection and herbarium. France has a relatively high biodiversity for a European country : 184 families, 1255 genera and 7424 species have been listed by Kerguélen (1993). Nevertheless this biodiversity is lower than in South Africa were these data are respectively : 231, 2236 and 21147. This difference is confirmed by analysis of specific diversity in France and South Africa .

See Table 2 "Specific diversity (included ferns and allies) in South Africa and France".

For the last 3 years, c. 1000 plants of wild origin were collected for the herbarium and c. 500 of cultivated origin. The strategy of collection is to have the highest possible diversity : first at the family rank, then at the genus rank. For example, 130 families and 350 genera of French wild origin plants are represented. This collection will be used for a work on the systematic of flowering plants of France and Europe.

We have a few hundreds of fruits and seeds in collection, which are used as references but also play a pedagogic role. For example, people learn how looks a walnut. Evolution from Gymnosperms (which do not have fruits) to Angiosperms can easily be explained by making a comparison between a pinecone and an infrutescence of Magnolia grandiflora.

{short description of image}


At the beginning of 1998, the Association of botanical gardens of France and French-speaking countries after the visit of scientific inspector and a technical inspector has delivered its agreement to the botanical garden of the city of Paris (collective name for the 4 sites). This was the realization of a 3-year plan for improving the quality of our plant collections and for starting new scientific activities. In the future, the strategy of living plant collections will be to collect more on the field or to have more plants with certified passport data. The botanic garden of the City of Paris is a new botanic gardens achieved through analysis of existing parts and integration of key assets to achieve the French botanic garden charter edited by the "Association des Jardins botaniques de France et des francophones".


Arnold T. H., De Wet B. C., 1993. Plants of Sourthern Africa: names and distribution. Memoirs of the botanical survey of South Africa n° 62: 825 pp.Barrie Low A., Rebelo A. (T.) G., 1998. Vegetation of south Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Pub. Department of environmental Affairs and Tourism, Pretoria: 126 pp.

Bray L., Bonnet S., Couette F., 1997. Conservation des ressources phytogénétiques par le jardin botanique de la Ville de Paris. In L’exploitation de la biodiversité/Exploitation of biodiversity, Agrogène : 104-116.

Brisse H., Kerguélen M., 1994. Code informatisé de la flore de France. AFIB : 189 pp.

Chase M. W. et al. (41 others), 1993. Phylogenetics of seed plants : an analysis of nucleotide sequences from the plastid gene rbcl. Missouri Bot. Gard. 80 : 528-580.

Cronquist A. 1968. The evolution and classification of flowering plants. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Cronquist A., 1981. An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. Columbia University Press, New York.

Dahlgren G. 1989. An updated angiosperm classification. J. Linn. Soc. Bot. 100: 197-203.

Frohne D., Jensen U., 1998. Systematik des Pflanzenreichs. 5ème édit. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Stuttgart : 371 pp.

Greuter W., Barrie F. R., Burdet H. M., Chaloner W. G., Demoulin V., Hawksworth D. L., Silva P. C., Trehane P., 1994. International code of Botanical Nomenclature (Tokyo Code). Koeltz Scientific Books : 389 pp.

Hilton-Taylor C., 1998. Information sheet on plant collecting in South Africa: 2 pp.

Kerguélen M., 1993. Index synonymique de la flore de France : 196 p.

Linné C., 1763. Genera plantarum. Editio sexta. Upsala : 624 pp (incluant l'index et l'erratum).

Richard A., 1828. Nouveaux élémens de botanique et de physiologie végétale. Béchet Jeune : 8 planches et 593 pages.

Takhtajan A., 1997. Diversity and classification of flowering plants. Columbia University Press, New-York : 643 pp.

Thorne R.F. 1992. Classification and geography of the flowering plants. Bot. Rev. 58: 225-348.

{short description of image}

Table 1

Long Term Plant Collection Strategy of the Botanical Garden of the City of Paris

1. All new accessions should help the reduction of the current imbalance between plants of wild and cultivated origin,

2. To respond to the 1st point and to create plant collections with high conservation value, the City of Paris should take advantage of the links between Paris and the abroad French-speaking cities which belong to the French-speaking cities association,

3. To pursue on creating links and joint-activities with national or international research activities. The seed bank must play a key-role because of its relative low cost compared to some others research activities.

4. To reinforce the fruit and seeds collection but also the herbarium which is a valuable tool for studying systematic.

{short description of image}

Table 2

Specific Diversity (included ferns and allies) in South Africa and France (Barrie Low & Rebelo, 1998; Kerguelen, 1993).


No. species

Area (km²)

Species diversity (Species/ha)

Species diversity/ French diversity


7 605

550 000



South Africa

24 030

1 221 864



Eastern Cape

6 164

170 496



Free State

2 984

129 832




3 303

18 611




6 141

94 590




4 782

78 234




3 025

116 024



Northern Cape

5 067

362 243



N. Province

4 236

122 305



Western Cape

8 925

129 529




{short description of image}

{short description of image}


{short description of image}

Copyright 1999 NBI