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Plans for a Botanical Garden in the Czech Republic

Volume 3 Number 4 - June 2000
Roman Pavela & Váklava Pesková

The Czech republic has several botanical gardens one of which is situated in Plzen (Pilsen) well known for the production of the internationally famous brand of beer rather than for the botanical garden. However, the town´s botanical and zoological gardens have a rich history and have developed an increasingly important role in the town.

The Botanical Garden in Plzen was a private garden designed in the 1920s. The garden originally had an acreage of 2.5 ha (6.2 acres) with more than 400 species and cultivars of woody plants, a rose garden, perennials, bulbous species and a rock garden.

In 1981, the botanical garden was joined with the neighbouring zoological garden but it was not until a glasshouse for the collections of succulents from Africa, Madagascar and Canary Islands had been built did they work together to organize joint zoological-botanical displays. New displays of plant associations also have animals from the same habitat and region.

In 1997, a plan was developed based on this concept so that the zoobotanical displays are laid out in relation to their geographical distribution. The future biopark of 24 ha (54.3 acres) will have displays representing typical biotypes of six zoogeographical regions. The plan includes education materials on ecology as part of the sightseeing tour. These will help to show the present ecology (on a regional and global scale) against a background of the geological events responsible for the evolution and distribution of organisms.

The botanical displays were started in 1993. There is now a European xeric plant community, an African savannah landscape next to the African paddock, and a new display of primeval forest, with a collection of shade-tolerant plants near the chimpanzees.

Creation of an educational path, named Nature development during the Quarternary, began in 1997. This educational route shows the development of nature in the subarctic region from the end of the Tertiary to the present, covering botany, zoology, geology and paleontology. Botanical exhibits, simulated plant communities from interglacial periods, relics of the Tertiary thermophilic plant kingdom and glacial periods (tundra, taiga, and cold steppe), which occurred in Central Europe in the early Quarternary period, were the first part of this project. The second part of this educational path was opened in 1998. Its dominant feature is the second largest bear enclosure in Europe for seven bears but also a botanical display of the forest development and anthropological display of human development. The forest development is demonstrated by the appearance of individual woody plants in separate phases of the Holocene period. Visitors can see common plants of our forest which occurred within the plant communities of relict acidophilic and lime-tolerant pinewood, pinewood and oxyphilic oak groves and in the community of the scree forest.

The origin of recent zoogeographical regions such as the Oriental and Ethiopian will be demonstrated in the future. Displays will show the geology in relation to the movement of the continents resulting in the development of climatic and floristic regions with mammal development and migration.

Botanical displays in preparation are the European plant communities of salt meadow, blown sands, calcicole meadows and limestone rock and Patagonic neotropic zoogeographical region displays with dominant Humboldt Penguin and alpine communities of New Zealand and Australia.

At the same time, a Pteridophyte collection is being developed. This collection, is being developed in collaboration with members of the Hardy Fern Foundation, and will comprise representatives of the Euro-Asian and North American flora. Ferns species will be incorporated into simulated plant communities which are as near as possible to their natural habitat. The aim of this project is to concentrate the fern collection in a relatively small area, which will provide a source of material for our research purposes. The collection contains about 100 European species and varieties, obtained by collection, exchange with botanic gardens and from members of the fern societies. Plants will be propagated to supplement the collection.

This is only a small part of our plans. We would like to contribute to the conservation and the development of conservation of the world's diversity and simultaneously get the public acquainted with the garden as one great biopark, organised in zoogeographical regions.