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Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario

Canada - Ontario - Burlington

Institution Code: HAM

International Agenda Registration: Y
BGCI Member: Y

Royal Botanical Gardens' historic Rock Garden is planted with thousands of annuals following its spring tulip display.
Royal Botanical Gardens' historic Rock Garden is planted with thousands of annuals following its spring tulip display.

About the Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario

Royal Botanical Gardens is Canada's largest botanical garden on the basis of its land holdings. It was founded in the 1930s as a combination of cultivated gardens, parks in the City of Hamilton, and protected natural lands. Most of the land area of RBG is located within the city limits of Hamilton, while RBG Centre, with its administrative, research and cultural functions, is located in the west end of neighbouring Burlington.

As directed by its provincial mandate, since 1941 RBG developed in the 1950s and 1960s into a centre of excellence in both horticulture and the management of natural areas. It has extensive educational programs and serves as an outdoor laboratory for scientific research. More than 25,000 children per year participate in formal education programs, many based at the Nature Interpretive Centre in the RBG Arboretum.

RBG's cultivated area is comprised of five cultivated gardens holding 50 different plant collections, display gardens and seasonal exhibitions. These gardens include;
- The Rock Garden which displays spring bulbs, summer annuals, spring flowering trees and conifers.
- The Laking Garden holds the major perennial collections including irises, hostas, grasses, peonies and a heritage plant collection.
- Hendrie Park features collections of roses, lilies, woodland plants, medicinal plants, scented plants and annual trial beds.
- RBG Centre includes a living wall, collections of orchids, a bulb room and a conservatory of Mediterranean plants
- The Arboretum collections include majestic avenues of trees, ornamental trees and shrubs, and a magnolia collection. Of particular note is RBG’s signature lilac collection which is one of the largest and most diverse lilac collections in the world. RBG is also the International Registration Authority for Cultivar Names of Lilacs in the Genus Syringa L. (Oleaceae).

RBG's nature sanctuaries contain one of the most significant and best-studied regional floras in Ontario. Continuing to monitor and conduct field botany in these properties is crucial to managing the institution's natural lands, for interpreting them for the public, and for understanding patterns of plant distribution.

Present research programs include plant systematics and taxonomy, ecological restoration, field botany, wetlands management, species-at-risk management and recovery, and horticultural taxonomy of hybrid lilacs. Most research is centred on the stewardship and restoration of RBG's natural lands, especially wetlands and threatened terrestrial habitats and plant species.

The RBG Herbarium, known internationally as "HAM," supports the institution's research activities and is critical to the generation of its knowledge-based products. HAM is an archive of the last 50 years of floristic exploration of southern Ontario and is also important as an international collection of cultivated plant specimens. In total it comprises 80,000 specimens. It includes approximately 15,000 specimens collected within RBG's own properties and the immediate area, and forms the basis for a published checklist of plants growing within the natural lands.

The RBG Library and Archives have provided research support to both RBG staff and visiting researchers, through extensive serials and monograph collections in horticulture, botany, zoology, garden history and design, landscape architecture and gardening, for nearly 50 years. The Centre for Canadian Historical Horticulture Studies contains one of the largest historical collections of Canadian and international nursery and seed trade catalogues in Canada, as well as the papers of Isabella Preston and other Canadian horticulturists and botanists. The collection also contains a wide variety of ephemera relating to the gardening and horticulture industry in Canada and parts of the United States. The unique focus of these library and archival collections allows RBG to serve as an important centre supporting in-depth research on the development and management of botanical gardens and horticulture trades in North America.

Main Address:
Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario
680 Plains Road West
Ontario L7T 4H4 Canada

Telephone: (905) 527-1158
Fax: (905) 577-0375
Primary Email:

Staff Details

  • Director's Name: Mark Runciman, CEO
    Curator's Name: Alex Henderson, Curator of Collections and Horticulturist
    Plant Records Officer's Name: Jodi Vanderheyden Curator of Annual Display and Plant Documentation
  • Total Staff:
    Horticultural Staff Number: 25
    Educational Staff Number: 6
    Research Staff Number: 8
    Administration Staff Number: 16

About the Garden

  • Institution Type: Botanic Garden
  • Status
  • Status: Private: Y
    Status: State: Y
    Status: Educational: Y
    Status: Municipal: Y
  • Date founded: 1930
  • Physical Data
  • Natural Vegetation Area: Y
    Natural vegetation area: Size: 981 Hectares
  • Landscaped Area: Y
    Landscaped Area: Size: 100 Hectares
  • Total Area: 1100 Hectares
    Latitude: 43.29096
    Longitude: -79.87519
    Annual Rainfall: 680 mm
    Altitude: 102.00 Metres
    Total area of glasshouses: 2684 Metres
    Total area of shadehouses: 1143 Metres
  • Additional Locations
  • Satellite Garden Names: n/a
  • Locality: Information
  • Locality: Garden Name:
  • Local Address:
    Royal Botanical Gardens
    680 Plains Road West
    Burlington, Ontario, L7T 4H4
  • Locality: City: Burlington
  • Locality: State: Ontario

Features and Facilities

  • Herbarium: Y
    Herbarium: Number of Specimens: 60000
    Arboretum: Y
    Arboretum Size: 15
  • Micropropagation/ Tissue Culture Facilities: N
    Seed Bank: N
    Published Plant Catalogue: N
    Computer Plant Record System: Y
  • Open to public: Y
    Friends society: Y
    Retail Outlet: Shop: Y
    Retail Outlet: Plant Sales: Y
    Disabled access: Y
  • Number of Visitors: 500000
    Number of Volunteers: 350

Plant Collections

  • Accession Number: 11456
    Cultivation Taxa Num: 8662
  • Special Collections:The focus of the living collections is based upon ornamental cultivated plants with a subset of plants being of wild origin and having ex-situ conservation value. As a result, the horticultural work taking place within the living collections is centered upon horticultural research and science, trials and evaluation, education and horticultural display. For a plant to be accessioned within a collection it must have taxonomic, geographic, horticultural, morphological, display, economic, thematic or conservation significance.

    Display gardens with strong educational themes include;
    ·No Mow! No Blow! No H2O! a garden which explores how informed plant choice and sustainable horticultural techniques can help to reduce the average garden's carbon footprint, use little supplemental water and minimize waste and pollution.
    ·The Helen M. Kippax garden interprets how the native plants of southern Ontario bring ecological function, biodiversity and sustainability to gardens.
    ·Veggie Village: 100 Mile Produce Gardens encourages visitors to eat vegetables produced locally in keeping with the one hundred mile diet and promotes ideas on food security, plant biodiversity while empowering visitors to engage with ways of reducing their carbon footprint.
    ·The Aldershot Escarpment Garden provides the opportunity to interpret the diversity of the local landscape, in particular the Niagara Escarpment (designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO).

    An ex-situ group of approximately 70 Wood-Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum - Listed as Endangered in Canada) has been established for experimental and monitoring purposes in a secluded natural area. This group is being monitored by the Wood Poppy Recovery Team and is part of a population genetics study of the species and its status in Canada.

Conservation Programmes

  • Conservation Programme: Y
    Medicinal Plant Programme: N
    Ex Situ Conservation Programme: N
    Reintroduction Programme: Y

Research Programmes

  • Biotechnology: N
    Plant Breeding: N
    Conservation - Biology: Y
    Conservation - Genetics: Y
    Data Management Systems and Information Technology: Y
    Ecology: Y
    Ecosystem Conservation: Y
    Education: Y
    Ethnobotany: Y
    Exploration: N
    Floristics: Y
    Invasive Species Biology and Control: Y
    Molecular Genetics: N
    Pollination Biology: N
    Restoration Ecology: Y
    Seed/Spore Biology: N
    Sustainability: Y
    Pharmacology: N
    Agriculture: N
    Land Restoration: Y
    Urban Environments: Y

Education Programmes

  • Visitor/Education Centre: Y
    Education Signs in Garden: Y
    Public Lectures/Talks: Y
    Education Booklets/Leaflets: Y
    Guided Tours: Y
    Permanent Public Displays: Y
    Special Exhibitions: Y
    Courses for School Children: Y
    Courses for University/College Students: Y
    Courses for General Public: Y
    Education Programme: Y

Managing and restoring vegetation at the head of Lake Ontario, Canada

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Hamilton has extensive natural land holdings include some of the most botanically rich lands in all of Canada, and wetland ecological restoration programs that are known internationally for their innovation and leadership. Early explorers described and documented tallgrass prairie and oak savannah communities around the western end or “head” of Lake Ontario. Today, less than one percent of Hamilton’s prairies and savannahs remain. Within our nature sanctuaries, remnant prairies and oak savannahs have become degraded over time due to lack of fire disturbance and introduction of invasive species. Royal Botanical Gardens is actively restoring these ecosystems through the use of prescribed burns and re-introduction of prairie plants through seeding and planting. Princess Point is the current area of focus.

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