Hortus Botanicus Vrije Universiteit threatened with demolition
5 May 2009
The Hortus Botanicus of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands is slated for demolition to make room for a new complex of high-rise buildings.
The Hortus Botanicus, founded in 1967, covers one hectare ( 2.5 acres ), including 1,000 sq m (about 10,800 sq ft) of greenhouses providing a range of climatic conditions.
This small but charming botanical garden contains more than 6,000 taxa including: a large collection of epiphytic orchids and bromeliads, an unusual collection of scented geraniums and pelargoniums, the largest collection of cacti in the Netherlands with some plants being more than a century old, a bamboo collection, plants of the bible and plants of other religions, a Chinese miniature landscape garden (The Penjing Garden), a bonsai collection as well as container plants that are 60 to 80 years old. There is also an extensive collections of Australian trees and shrubs, which overwinter in the Orangery and are set outside every spring. There are approximately 40 large trees in the gardens, among others many types of pinus, ornamental cherry and other fruit, the hankerchief tree (Davidia involucrata), ginkgo biloba, and magnolia.
It is open to the public throughout the year, without entrance fee and the gardens are used by University students studying ecological science. The Hortus also provides a green oasis for patients of the University Medical Centre and the campus population. Patients, staff and visitors to the hospital are often found enjoying the rich colours and filling their lungs with the sweet smells of the gardens. They are very happy to have a garden so close by.
Plants that are taken into custody at Schiphol airport are sent to the Hortus to be cared for. These plants are listed on CITES. They are legally protected and are not the property of the University. These plants will be destroyed if the Hortus is closed, further reducing the biological diversity of the earth and the chance to examine these plants and their DNA.
The Hortus is a member of the national plant collection, an umbrella organisation of all 18 botanical gardens in The Netherlands and also one of the 20 member gardens of the Dutch Association of Botanic Gardens.
The Hortus colleagues are supported and supplemented by a large group of dedicated volunteers, people from the city with varying skills and expertise. There is also a large group of generous donors who love and support this unique garden in Amsterdam.
We urge those concerned to send a letter or e-mail to the Board of the University and of the hospital, surely we should be creating more gardens, not destroying the valuable ones!
Dr René M. Smit, Chairman
Fax: (011 31) 20 59 85300
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