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The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) Botanic Garden - a National Facility for India

Volume 2 Number 3 - May 1994
S.C. Sharma & Anil K. Goel

Introduction

The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), is one of the constituent National Laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi. It was originally founded as the National Botanic Gardens in 1948.

The Botanic Garden of the Institute has historical records dating back to 1800. The garden was established by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan (1784-1814) as a Royal Garden. Later, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Oudh, developed it further and named it Sikander Bagh after his favourite and beautiful queen Begum Sikander Mahal. (Pl.1)

The Botanic Garden is situated in the heart of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh province, and covers an area of 25 ha along the southern bank of the River Gomti at an altitude of 113 m (Lat. 26º55' N., Long. 80º59' E.). The garden serves as a national facility to conserve India's flora and offers opportunities to researchers, students, teachers, plantsmen and garden-lovers from India and abroad. It has a high reputation for its well-identified and aesthetically displayed diversity of plants, comprising a collection of 6,000 indigenous, ornamental and exotic taxa, designed to capture a living nucleus of plant wealth for posterity.

Germplasm Collections

The plant wealth of the Botanic Garden is displayed in the arboretum, conservatory, cactus and succulent house, palm house, bonsai section, fern house and new conservatory. The garden has extensive collections of Bougainvillea (250 taxa); Canna (150); Chrysanthemum (450); Gladiolus (120); and rose hybrids (500), species or cultivars.

Arboretum
The arboretum, situated to the left of the main entrance, includes nearly 500 species of trees. These are planted in systematic order and properly labelled. Some notable indigenous and exotic tree species are: Adansonia digitata, Alstonia scholaris, A. macrophylla, Annona muricata, Boswellia serrata, Bischofia javanica, Butea monosperma, Chorisia insignis, Cinnamomoum camphora, Coccoloba uvifera, Dillenia indica, Diospyros malabarica, Dalbergia lanceolata, Ficus benghalensis, F. krishnae, Litsea glutinosa, Oroxylum indicum, Pterocarpus marsupium, Saraca declinata, Shorea robusta, Santalum album, Strychnos nux-vomica, S. potatorum, Syzygium jambos, Tabebuia palmeri, Tecomella undulata and Tectona grandis.

Conservatory
A horseshoe-shaped plant house, with an area of 1,370.5 mý, serves as a conservatory for house plants and species from tropical and sub-tropical climates. There are nearly 600 species/cultivars of ornamental, wild and cultivated plants in the conservatory. Some interesting plants are: Bambusa ventricosa, Christia vespertilionis, Encephalartos villosus, Hoya carnosa, Fatsia japonica, Ginkgo biloba, Lodoicea maldivica and Vanilla planifolia. There is also a large collection of Aglaonema, Alocasia, Anthurium, Asparagus, Calathea, Chlorophytum, Codiaeum, Dieffenbachia, Dracaena, Peperomia, Philodendron, Pandanus and Syngonium.

Cactus and succulent house
A pagoda-shaped glasshouse, with an area of 284 mý, holds the germplasm collection of about 500 species or varieties of cacti and succulent plants from arid regions. The plants are displayed both planted in the ground and in pots. A few notable taxa are: Adenium obesum, Agave stricta, Beaucarnea recurvata, Cephalocereus sinilis, Cereus peruvianus, C. grandiflorus, Cotyledon orbiculata, Dudleya virens, Dyckia remotifolia, Echinocactus grusonii, Furcraea foetida, Gasteria maculata, Gymnocalycium mihanvichii, Haworthia fasciata, H. limifolia, Kalanchoe marmorata, Melocactus nerye, Mammillaria echinarea, Nolina stricta, Notonia grandiflora, Opuntia argentea, O. microdasys 'Albida', O vulgaris, Pereskia aculeata, P. bleo, Stapelia gigantea, Yucca filifera, and various grafted cacti. Recently the rare gymnosperm Welwitschia mirabilis has been introduced via seeds procured from Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden, South Africa.

Palm House
The Palm House covers 765 mý. and contains the Arecaceae germplasm collection. Over 60 species of palms are displayed in pots of various sizes and in the ground. Some interesting species are: Arenga pinnata, Areca catechu, Cocos nucifera, Caryota urens, C. mitis, Chamaedorea elegans, C. stolonifera, Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, Daemonorops kunstleri, Elaeis guineensis, Licuala grandis, L. spinosa, Livistona chinensis, L. cochin-chinensis, Mascarena verschaffeltii, Phoenix reclinata, Ptychosperma macarthuri, Thrinax barbadensis and T. excelsa.

This house also holds a beautiful display of about 200 taxa of Bonsai plants.

Fern house
This pyramidal house, with an area of 400 mý, holds the germplasm collection of 65 fern species from India and abroad, including: Adiantum capillus-veneris, A. hispidulum, Blechnum occidentale, Bolbitis heteroclita, Diplazium esculentum, Drynaria quercifolia, Equisetum debile, Lygodium flexuosum, Microsorium alternifolium, Nephrolepis cordifolia, N. duffii, N. tuberosa, Ophioglossum reticulatum, Psilotum nudum, Pteris cretica 'albolineata' and P. vittata.

New conservatory
This conservatory, established during 1989, has an area of 680 mý. It is designed to display the germplasm collection of rare, interesting, economic and medicinal plant species in pots. The pots have been placed in a three-tier system, with display labels depicting salient features, as an aesthetic and educational display of the germplasm collection.

Plant Introduction

This is a most significant activity in the Botanic Garden, in order to enrich the germplasm collection and provide a broad genetic base for researchers and other botanists. The seeds and plants are obtained from over 250 botanic gardens in India and abroad on an exchange basis. The Botanic Garden also provides authentic plant material on exchange to sister organisations within and outside India for research and development.

Some important plant species recently introduced in the Botanic Garden are: Adansonia za, Agave salmiana, Aristolochia brasiliensis, Afzelia quanzensis, Asparagus neglectus, A. officinalis, Billbergia alfonsi-joannis, Caesalpinia velutina, Chlorophytum amaniense, Crescentia mirabilis, Cycas media, Dioon edule, D. spinulosum, Encephalartos gratus, Hibiscus insularis, Jacaranda cuspidifolia, Lepidozamia peroffskyana, Livistona carnarvon, Nolina paryii, N. stricta, Pavetta revoluta, Phoenix canariensis, Salvia forskohlii, Sophora davidii and Zamia pumila.

Ex situ Conservation

The flora of the Indian subcontinent is very rich, with a high level of endemism. Due to natural and developmental activities, over 4,000 taxa are under varying degrees of threat or even extinction. Ex situ conservation remains the last resort to save such taxa from extinction and forms an integral part of the work of the Botanic Gardens. The Botanic Gardens play an important role in the conservation of genetic diversity and act as a centre of excellence for the conservation of wild and ornamental plant species which we might otherwise encounter only in books or on herbarium sheets. The germplasm collection of some important rare, endangered and endemic plants includes: Bentinckia nicobarica, Commiphora wightii, Cycas beddomei, C. pectinata, Erythrina resupinata, Frerea indica, Hoya pendula, H. wightii, Rauvolfia serpentina, Phoenix rupicola, Sophora mollis, Tecomella undullata and Vanilla planifolia.

A project on the species and cultivars of the sacred Lotus (Nelumbo) and Euryale ferox has been undertaken for the purposes of germplasm collection, multiplication, conservation and documentation.

Sale of Plants and Seeds

The Botanic Garden staff propagate and produce seeds of a wide variety of indigenous, exotic and ornamental plants for sale to encourage an awareness of biodiversity and the environment amongst the general public and plantsmen or onnoisseurs. They also provide plant material for herbarium specimens and for the research of colleges, universities and other institutes.

Technical consultancy, landscaping and training

The Botanic Garden renders technical advice on landscaping and ornamental horticulture to individuals in both the private and public sectors, including National Institutes and Government Organisations.

Short educational-cum-training courses are conducted in the cultivation of ornamentals and by offering technical aid and advice on landscaping, garden layout and the latest techniques in horticultural practice. About 500 visitors, students and researchers from all over the country and abroad visit the Botanic Garden daily.

Floriculture

Research and Development ("R. & D.")
Studies on ornamental crops comprise the most vital and significant activity in the Botanic Gardens towards the development of modern hybrids or variants from species and old cultivars. Noteworthy ornamental crops, identified for research and development are: Amaranthus, Gladiolus, Chrysanthemum, Bougainvillea, Gerbera, roses and polyanthus. Studies on the germplasm collections, propagation and multiplication, documentation, varietal improvement and assessment and horticulturtal taxonomy have been undertaken.

There is a large collection of Bougainvillea species and varieties, comprising 250 cultivars, in the Botanic Garden. Bougainvillea cultivars bred by N.B.R.I. include: Shubhra, Arjuna, Begum Sikander, Wazid Ali Shah, Chitra, Tetra, Mrs. McClean, Archana, Mary Palmer Special and Hawaiin Beauty.

It is worth mentioning the "lab. to land" programme, whereby Gladiolus cultivation and agrotechnology have been developed in the Botanic Garden and thge information passed on to progressive farmers. Over 120 Gladiolus cultivars are under cultivation in the commercial and display plots during the winter.

Annual Flower Shows and Science Exhibitions

The Botanic Garden organises two annual flower shows, a Chrysanthemum and Coleus Show and a Rose and Gladiolus Show, during December and January. Of international standard, the shows display research and development in ornamental horticulture to garden lovers, plantsmen and the general public. They are an opportunity for plant scientists, horticulturists, gardeners and the public to discuss problems of mutual interest.

Thus the NBRI Botanic Garden has many roles. It provides facilities for the study of plant biodiversity, it supplies plant material to researchers and landscapers, passes on the agro-technology of floral crops to the farming community, inculcates an interest in the public in aesthetics and the Environment, and promotes educational programmes.

 
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