Botanic Gardens Conservation International
BGCI provides a global voice for all botanic gardens, championing and celebrating their inspiring work. We are the world's largest plant conservation network, open to all. Join us in helping to save the world's threatened plants.

Proposals for the Reconstruction of the Zemaljski Museum and the Botanic Garden, Sarajevo

Volume 2 Number 6 - June 1996


Now known as the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Zemaljski Muzej and the Botanic Garden in Sarajevo were founded on the 1st of February 1888 during the period of Austro-Hungarian rule. The cluster of elegant ochre-coloured buildings is a complex of four specially-built pavilions housing archaeology, ethnology, the natural sciences and the library.

The Garden is laid out around the pavilions and includes collections of succulents, ferns, swamp and aquatic plants, local medicinal herbs, irises, xerophilous plants and endemics of the Dinaric Mountains, as well as an arboretum, rose garden and glasshouses.

The living collections were used for a variety of different botanical disciplines (from morphology and systematics to cytology and genetics) and particularly applied botany. It also was a centre for education of the general public. 3,000 plant species consisting of several thousand specimens were cultivated in the Garden, the trees and bushes were represented by about 800 species while the remaining species were perennial and annual plants.

The Museum and the Garden have been badly damaged in the last three years of the war, although the staff tried to protect some of the most vulnerable exhibits, (including the very valuable herbarium collections - many of them voucher specimens of Balkan endemic plants also cultivated in the Garden), hiding them away in the basement, but a lack of storage materials has meant that even some of these have deteriorated.

Before the war, the situation as regards equipment was quite satisfactory, but during the war the greater part of it was damaged. Materials such as insecticide tapes and herbarium wrapping paper are desperately needed.

With the ending of the siege of Sarajevo and, indeed, hopeful signs of peace throughout Yugoslavia, it is rapidly becoming possible to plan reconstruction of cultural and academic life in the capital city of Bosnia.

Some help has already been offered and sent by the charity set up in London,:

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Heritage Rescue (Bosnia and Herzegovina Heritage Rescue (Reg. Charity No. 1039502)
12 Flitcroft Street,
London WC2H 8DJ.
Tel/Fax: 0171-240 7966.

Donations can be made to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Heritage Rescue Foundation and sent to the above address or to

National Westminster Bank, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JA
Sort code 60-80-07 Account No: 54066786.)

A separate, though linked, project concerns the plan to publish in Britain a picture book on the Bosnian flora based on Dr Cedomil Silic's publications. Dr Silic is an eminent botanist with a detailed knowledge of the rare endemic plants of Bosnia and a very gifted photographer with a fine collection of plant photographs taken in nature.

He was Director of the Botanic Garden in Sarajevo until early in 1995, when he had to take early retirement through illness. Dr Max Walters and his son Martin are putting together a fund for this project. They intend to devote the proceeds to the rehabilitation of the Sarajevo Garden. Dr Silic is very enthusiastic about the possibility, and can provide close-up colour photographs of 162 Bosnian rare or endemic plant species. In the meantime, the Linnean Society of London has kindly made a grant of GBP£500 to open the Fund. Any contribution, large or small, will be gratefully received. Cheques should be made out to "Sarajevo Book Account" and sent to Dr S.M. Walters, c/o the Friends of Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Cory Lodge, Bateman Street, Cambridge CB2 1JF, U.K.

Dr Silic reports that there is not a single shrub or tree in the Garden that has not been damaged - from the beginning of April 1992 to the end of 1994 there fell in the area of the Botanic Garden [only c. 1 hectare] more than 400 shells. The greatest losses to the Garden from the point of view of botany and conservation are in the rich collections of endemic relict and rare plants, of which there were several hundred species.

Little can be done immediately to help with the long-term replanting of trees, but Dr S.M. Walters suggests an interesting opportunity, through the international botanic gardens' seed exchange, to help rebuild the rare and endemic Balkan plant collection.

Like most other botanic gardens, Sarajevo has regularly sent out a seed list, offering both wild collected and Garden seed free to the botanic gardens of the world.

The last of these lists from Sarajevo, dated 1990, was available to Cambridge Botanic Garden, U.K., in early 1991. It contained offers of seed of 825 species, many of them wild-collected. There are 12 plants grown from seed in Cambridge of which several, such as Edraianthus pumilio and Alyssum moellendorfianum, are wild collected endemics obtained from the 1991 seed list.

It may well be that other gardens can trace similar "Sarajevo plants"; if so, we can hope to supply back to the Sarajevo Garden itself a small collection of the precious "lost" rare and endemic species. It is hoped to explore this possibility, at least with the British and Irish gardens, through PlantNet (The plant collections network of Britain & Ireland).