Around the World at the Oxford Botanic Garden

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.

Betula albosinensis, Chinese Red Birch, with its amazing bark provided welcome shade beside the river. © Karen Andrews

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.

Cyperus papyrus, Papyrus from Africa. The Ancient Egyptians used Papyrus to create one of the first types of paper. © Karen Andrews
This fierce-looking plant comes from Mexico. It was labelled as Agave ferox, but this is a synonym of Agave salmiana var. ferox according to Kew’s Plants of the World Online. © Karen Andrews
The central pool in the Water Lily House dates back to 1851. © Karen Andrews

I particularly enjoyed seeing the range of carnivorous plants.

A showy, cultivated variety of Pitcher Plant: Nepenthes lowii x ventricosa. Borneo in origin. © Karen Andrews

Wonderful Floral Variety

I wondered at the fascinating, floral variety throughout the gardens:

Flower Borders

Colourful borders offer plenty of appeal to gardeners. In the foreground, note the Oxford Physic Rose grown to celebrate the botanic garden’s 400th anniversary in 2021. © Karen Andrews
Welcome seating areas just to sit and contemplate the plants. © Karen Andrews


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


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.

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