On one of the hottest summer days of 2022, I found myself wandering around Oxford Botanic Gardens beside the River Cherwell. The site is relatively small, but there is nonetheless an incredibly large and varied display of plants from the four corners of the world.
The Oxford Botanic Garden has a fascinating 400-year history as the oldest surviving botanic garden in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1621 to cultivate medicinal plants for the University of Oxford’s medical students. The garden has an ongoing legacy and mission to share the scientific wonder and importance of plants with the world.
I was very grateful for the shade provided by the tree of Chinese origin below. Betula albosinensis, Chinese Red Birch, has amazing red, patterned bark.
Greece and Cyprus
One of my favourite corners of the garden was devoted to plants from Greece and Cyprus. The sun beat down. It transported me back to past Mediterranean visits, except there is something much more oppressive about a British heatwave.
One of the advantages of visiting a botanic garden is that the plants are generally well-labelled. However, the plants did not fully cooperate in my botanical and horticultural education. They took the liberty to billow out over the labels and hid many altogether much to my frustration. Oxford Botanic Gardens’ signs are particularly good at explaining the origins and stories behind the plants in the collection. I enjoyed reading about Sibthorp’s voyages for his Flora Graeca in the Rock Garden.
I enjoyed the opportunity to see a much wider range of parasitic Orobanche or Broomrape species than I have seen in the South West. They were clearly identified and appeared with their hosts.
There were some great plant displays in the various glasshouses. The bright sunshine really set them off.
I particularly enjoyed seeing the range of carnivorous plants.
Wonderful Floral Variety
I wondered at the fascinating, floral variety throughout the gardens:
One particular tree made me contemplate the lasting legacy of the Oxford Botanic Garden. A Pinus nigra, Black Pine, was planted in 2021 to commemorate the garden’s 400th anniversary. A plaque revealed that it was raised from seed from an original Pinus nigra that grew in the garden from around 1830-2014. It was reputedly much loved by the author, JRR Tolkien (1892-1973).
Looking back at my photos of this June day, it now jumps out at me that the tree was planted by the then Prince of Wales, now the new King Charles III. Plants and trees can have a wonderful lasting legacy in botanic gardens. As preparations for the Queen’s funeral proceed, I wonder about the lasting legacy of Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) through the Coronation Meadows and Queen’s Green Canopy.
© Karen Andrews
References and Further Reading
- Coronation Meadows (2022): Coronation Meadows. A meadow in every county to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation.
- Harris, Stephen A. (2017): Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum. A Brief History. Bodleian Library, Oxford
- Harris, Stephen A. (2021): Roots to Seeds. 400 Years of Oxford Botany. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
- The Queen’s Green Canopy (2022): The Queens’ Green Canopy. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022. The Platinum Jubilee 2022.
- Thorogood, Chris & Hiscock, Simon (2019): Oxford Botanic Garden. A Guide. Bodleian Library, Oxford
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.