Sign up to our newsletter:

NBRI Botanic Garden - A National Facility: Centre for Education and Conservation

Contributed by A.K. Goel and A.N. Sharga, National Botanical Research Institute, Rana Pratap Marg, Lucknow 226 001, India

Education in Botanic Gardens

The evolution and development of education through botanic gardens has seen tremendous changes and improvements over the last few decades, particularly in areas of conservation of nature, environmental awareness and bioaesthetics. Botanic gardens play an important role in training a large number of professionals and can act as a valuable source of information and enlightment for researchers and scientists about the problems pertaining to the conservation of floristic wealth and upgrading the environment.

A garden possessing ample representation of indigenous plant species serves as an invaluable educational tool through which the students at all levels are helped to learn and appreciate the diversity of plants in their neighbourhood and the relationship between plants and other organisms found in natural habitats. Considering the responsibilities and experience gained in botanic gardens in the field of research, education and display of varied plant species including their cultural requirements, they should further expand the public education programmes to promote knowledge about plant conservation and ethics for visitors; especially school children, local communities and regional authorities.

The role of botanic gardens has been transforming rapidly with the progression of botanical sciences and growing socio-economic demands of humankind since their existence during the last few centuries. Present day gardens are meant to have multifaceted aspects and be equipped to conserve plant resources and serve as a linkage between people and local and global problems. They are considered to be important centres and tools for the conservation of plant diversity and the education of the masses about its sustainable utilisation.

About NBRI Botanic Garden

The NBRI Botanic Garden was established around 1800 as a royal garden by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan; and later adopted by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Avadh region during the first half of the 19th century. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah attributed this garden its name Sikander Bagh after his favourite queen Sikander Mahal Begum. It was transferred to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research by the state government during 1948 and became known as the National Botanic Garden. Presently spread over an area of 25 hectares, it is located in the heart of the city of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, along the southern bank of the River Gomti. The garden has been disseminating knowledge and educating a cross section of society by organising various educational activities and programmes throughout the year to create awareness about plant conservation, environmental improvement and the sustainable utilisation of plant resources. Short education-cum-training programmes are conducted and focus on the cultivation of ornamentals, landscaping, garden layouts, bonsai culture and techniques in horticultural practices as well as imparting knowledge about the importance of different groups of plants and highlighting the need for their care and conservation.

Research and Development Activities

The research and development (R & D) activities of the botanic garden are highly versatile and consist of plant introduction, documentation, ex-situ conservation, propagation, evaluation, floriculture, plant protection, horto-taxonomy, bio-remediation, education and training programmes, annual flower shows and exhibitions, publications, seed and plant exchange, sale of plants and seeds, technical consultancy and societal interaction. Training and education programmes comprise an integral component under the charter of this botanic garden.

Germplasm Collection

This garden has been credited as a living repository to conserve the plant wealth of indigenous and exotic origin and offers immense opportunities to researchers, students, teachers, plant and garden lovers from India and abroad. It is reputed for its well identified and aesthetically displayed germplasm in a well designed landscape that captures a living nucleus of various plant species totalling nearly 7000 taxa for posterity. The collections in the botanic garden are being nurtured in the Arboretum, Conservatory, Philodendron and Bromeliad House, Cactus and Succulents House, Palm House, Bonsai Section, Fern House, House for Economic, Medicinal and Rare Plants Section, Green House with Mist Propagation Facility, Acclimatisation Chamber, Nursery, and in the Display and Commercial Plots.

Ex Situ Conservation

Ex-situ conservation and the multiplication of endangered and endemic taxa is of prime importance to the botanic garden. Such duplicate material is made available to other gardens, scientific organisations and university departments for R & D studies and the maintenance of their germplasm collection to save them from extinction and to inform and educate the masses about their importance in natural ecosystem. Some of the notable taxa are Adhatoda beddomei, Cycas beddomei, C. pectinata, Frerea indica, Hoya wightii, Isonandra villosa, Phoenix rupicola, Sophora mollis, Trachycarpus takail and Vanilla walkerie. The cycads comprise a very significant group of plants from an educational and evolutionary point of view. The germplasm of over 25 taxa of cycads representing the genera Cycas, Dioon, Encephalartos, Microcycas, Macrozamia and Zamia is being maintained and constantly enriched in the garden. Welwitschia mirabilis, a bizarre plant also known as Tree Tumbo, has been introduced from the National Botanic Garden, Kirstenbosch in South Africa. Besides this, other prominent taxa of evolutionary significance are Cyathea, Equisetum, Ginkgo, Helminthostachys, Nepenthes, Ophioglossum and Psilotum.

National Collection of Nelumbo (Lotus)

The NBRI Botanic Garden is maintaining one of the largest germplasm collections of Nelumbo (Sacred Lotus) comprising 60 spp./races with 25 races of exotic origin (from 7 countries) and 35 races of indigenous origin (from 11 states in India) to serve as reference centre for research and development studies. The dissemination of information about the Lotus through publications, articles and planting material has been provided to over 120 organisations, progressive farmers and plant growers, as well as to educational institutions.

Domestication of Wild Plants

The indigenous floristic wealth in our country proclaims its own significance and is deeply involved in our culture, literature and socio-economic life. A large number of plants in the country are intricately associated with festivals, rituals, and religious ceremonies related to all walks of life. Such plant species are collected by organising plant collection tours, and then introduced, acclimatised, multiplied, accessed and released for sale/exchange to raise the awareness of students and the general public of the importance of the conservation of indigenous taxa and their habitats. Noteworthy species are Butea superba, Cassia fistula (White) and Erythrina resupinata.

Botanical Excursions

Excursions to the gardens are arranged throughout the year for trainees, students and teachers. Appropriate guidance is rendered to them in the formulation of their various types of project reports pertaining to special groups of plants and for the purpose of bio-aesthetics and bio-remediation. Students at all levels are also provided with plant material for the preparation of herbarium specimens and their identification as per the requirements of their curricula.

Tree Plantation Drive

For creating mass awareness about the significance of living plant resources and their ex-situ conservation, a tree plantation drive was launched during the monsoon season in 1999. This project involved the general public and its purpose was to conserve important rare, exquisite and endangered tree species on the botanic garden campus. The general public were provided with a one page handout about the species that they had transplanted in the garden. This programme has helped to educate them and inculcate a bio-aesthetic sense.

Floriculture

The institute has evolved and released approximately 200 new ornamental cultivars such as Bougainvillea, Chrysanthemum, Gladiolus and Tuberose with the aim of promoting the floriculture industry. Authentic planting material of ornamental crops is provided to the public, farmers, students and researchers for experimental studies and other purposes. Short educational-cum-training programmes at various levels are conducted focusing on topics such as the cultivation of ornamentals, landscaping, garden layouts, bonsai and the latest techniques in horticultural practices.

Gladiolus
Germplasm of more than 150 cultivars of Gladiolus has been developed. Agro-technology has been standardised for the commercial cultivation of gladiolus under sub-tropical conditions. Courses are organised to impart training skills for the commercial cultivation of gladiolus in North Indian plains for the benefit of rural people. A get-together of beneficiaries of agro-technology transferred by the garden was also arranged during May, 1999 on National Technology Day. The participants discussed their problems, new planting material and crop management with the scientists and technical staff.

Bougainvillea
The botanic garden is maintaining a large collection of Bougainvilleas with more than 250 cultivars and serving as a reference centre for further research, development work and nursery trade. It has evolved over 20 new cultivars in the floriculture trade.

Chrysanthemum
This crop is widely cultivated for the cut-flower trade and the germplasm of more than 350 cultivars is being maintained in the garden. Several new cultivars have also been evolved and released in trade. Training and education is imparted in floriculture for floral dehydration and dry flower arrangements to the public and entrepreneurs by conducting training courses from time to time.

Annual Flower Shows and Science Exhibitions

The garden organises two annual flower shows (the Chrysanthemum and Coleus Show and the Rose and Gladiolus Show) during December and January. These shows are held for aesthetic reasons as well as to develop awareness amongst the general public about keeping their dwellings and the environment clean, healthy, green and colourful, as well as to generate self employment. All sections of society, floriculturists, gardeners, and the general public including government and non-government organisations, are encouraged to participate. The winning entries are awarded running trophies and shields besides several other prizes. The garden also participates every year in the State Flower Show by having a stall highlighting and educating about the R & D work in the area of floriculture and conservation. These flower shows provide an opportunity for close interaction on the problems of mutual interest to the masses from all walks of life.

Two science exhibitions; namely Science Day and CSIR Foundation Day; are arranged during February and September every year and involve keeping the garden and plant houses open to the public, students and teachers. On such occasions the visitors are given free access to all facilities and guided tours are conducted so that they can learn and realise the vital importance of plant diversity. The garden has also participated in science exhibitions in rural areas highlighting work on some important floricultural crops that benefit farmers and rural people.

Landscaping and Consultancy

Technical advice is rendered to individuals, the private and public sectors, national institutions and government organisations on bio-aesthetic planning and bio-remediation. The organisations worth mentioning are Navodaya Vidyalaya Complexes, National Thermal Power Projects at Sonebhadra & Unchahar, Larson & Toubro in Lucknow and the Gas Authority of India, Aurayia. The botanic garden has provided consultancy in the form of a detailed project report and layout plans for the establishment of the Temperate Botanic Garden at Paritabba, Mussoorie; Indira Gandhi Memorial Botanic Garden at Raebareily (UP); and the College of Agriculture, Nagpur (Maharashtra).

Training Courses

The garden regularly organises training courses for students, farmers, entrepreneurs and floriculturists. Notable ones are:

  • the two training courses on the commercial cultivation of Gladiolus in North Indian plains sponsored by SIDBI during 1996 and 1997; and
  • an Ornamental Horticulture and Landscaping course that was organised during 1997 and 1998 for the students of M.Sc. Life Sciences, Lucknow University and addressed both theory and practical classes incorporating various aspects of ornamental horticulture and landscaping with the help of audiovisuals and living plants.

Training for Field Staff

The training of field staff in the management and cultural aspects of different groups of plants and ornamental crops is provided on request and at various levels for the gardeners, supervisors, and horticultural officers. The gardeners from this garden also actively participate in the contests organised for the identification of plants. Training in Bonsai culture has also been provided to the housewives of the Army Wives Welfare Association from Central Command.

Documentation

The documentation and labelling of plant species is very important for a botanic garden for educational purposes. At NBRI the germplasm collections are properly labelled and documented including details on their binomials, author, family, common name, nativity and distribution, as well as with other salient features as per requirement for the benefit of visitors and students not familiar with their botanical names. The advice for labelling of trees, shrubs and annuals was rendered for the Cantonment area of Central Command, Bhartiya Vidhya Bhawan and City Montessori School at Lucknow to educate army personnel, school/college students and the public about plant diversity in their local surroundings.

Publications

Publications about plant wealth and the activities of the garden serve as an important device for educational purposes. Research papers and popular articles are regularly published in journals and popular magazines. A botanic garden brochure has been produced to give a bird’s eye view of the garden. A booklet and a folder have also been published about the commercial cultivation of gladiolus to educate and benefit the public and progressive growers under the rural development programme. In addition one page handouts have been published and provided to students and trainees covering various groups of interesting taxa and books on house plants and Bougainvillea. Bulletins on annuals and tuberose have also been published recently this year. Wide publicity is made about the interesting plants in media through newspapers and television to educate the public about nature conservation.

Sale and Exchange of Plants / Seeds

A variety of wild and ornamental plants are propagated in the garden for sale and/or exchange to inculcate bioaesthetic sense among the general public and connoisseurs. For the sale of plants/seeds, a price list has been printed and freely distributed. The garden is maintaining exchange relations with over 250 botanic gardens and institutions from within and outside the country from isoclimatic regions so that plant genetic resources of diverse groups of plants can be constantly enriched, conserved and disseminated. An Index - Seminum is printed and updated regularly for this purpose; notable species recently introduced in the garden are Adansonia za, Heliconia rostrata, Jacranda cuspidifolia, Nolina paryii, N. stricta, N. longifolia, Pachypodium lamerei, Senecio confusus and Sophora secundiflora.

Sponsored Projects

Sponsored projects contribute significantly towards strengthening the ongoing activities, facilities, and capacity building in the garden and for creating new ones to ameliorate the variety of habitats to conserve the plant diversity and rare and interesting taxa. Projects presently in operation are on ex-situ conservation, upgrading, networking and agro-technology of Euryale (Makhana) sponsored by MOEnF & CSIR, New Delhi.

Future Programmes

The botanic garden has been under the process of modernisation to equip itself with better facilities in order to further enrich its plant wealth. A separate section for people with disabilities is being conceived and will take the form of a scented garden. A Cycad House will be developed for students and the general public to educate them about the flora of the Jurassic Period. An Ixora garden is also being planned for enriching germplasm of this genus.

Conclusion

Botanic gardens are now considered important centres for education and can play a very vital role in catering for, and educating people about, the vast and varied heritage of plant life in complete harmony with nature. Rich and diverse plant collections in a garden serve as an invaluable educational tool through which the communities are helped to learn and acknowledge their plant resources, its sustainable utilisation and environmental improvement.

Considering the responsibilities and experience gained through the expertise generated in botanic gardens in the field of education, research and plant resources, gardens should expand their public education programmes to promote knowledge and the conservation of plant diversity and ethics to visitors, school children, community involvement and regional authorities. Capacity building programmes should be initiated to strengthen education in the botanic gardens at local, national, regional and global levels to generate more experienced hands by way of organising regular and frequent exchange programmes to various botanic gardens, organisations and institutions within and outside the country. Mobilisation of adequate resources, skilled staff and identification of an appropriate nodal agency to formulate specific need based programmes and policies worldwide, will be the right approach in this direction to achieve the desired results for present and future generations.

   

Related Gardens

India - West Bengal - Howrah


Journal Articles

July 1999