About the Garden

The Botanical Garden of the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University,

is located near Brno’s centre at the intersection of the streets Kotlářská and Veveří, adjacent to the Faculty of Science’s Kotlářská Campus. The garden was founded in 1922 by Josef Podpěra, the first Professor of Botany at the newly established Masaryk University (founded in 1919), on a 1.5-ha plot that was previously used as the kitchen garden of the former almshouse whose buildings were transferred to the new Faculty of Science (Vacek & Bureš 2001). Being mainly a plant geographer, Podpěra designed the garden following both systematic and ecological-phytogeographical principles. The systematic part of the garden contained plants arranged by families, though there were also displays of the Linnaean system, Mendel’s hybridization experiments, and medicinal and crop plants. The ecological-phytogeographical part represented major plant communities of southern Moravia and Central European mountain ranges and examples of various plant formations of temperate Eurasia. This original historical design has, with small changes, been maintained to this day. The first three greenhouses were built in 1924–1926, one with a pool for Victoria regia which first came into bloom in 1926 and immediately became an extremely popular attraction with the people of Brno. The garden was damaged during WWII by bombing by Allied air forces and by tree cuttings, but was restored after the war. In the late 1940s and 1950s, it was involved in applied projects to support socialist agriculture, in particular an attempt to introduce almond plantations in southern Moravia, though it later resumed its primary focus on education. The current greenhouses were built in 1995–1997. Although the Department of Botany and Zoology was moved from the Kotlářská Campus in 2006, the garden remains in this original location and also serves the public and other education institutions in addition to Masaryk University.

The garden is a popular place in the city of Brno, regularly visited by many people. It is open daily throughout the year, with free access to the outdoor section and moderate a entrance fee to the greenhouses. The garden organizes annual exhibitions of carnivorous plants (May), succulents (September), tropical and subtropical crop plants (October) and exotic birds (November). Perhaps the most attractive annual event in the garden for the general public is the Jazz Evening held in August when Victoria cruziana opens its flowers after sunset. There are many sculptures and other art works in the garden, both in the greenhouses and outdoors. The oldest is a frog sculpture with a fountain from 1947 at one of the pools. The compositions made from various rock types in front of the greenhouses were built by the sculptor Jan Šimek in 1997 (Chytrá 2012).

About 2500 plant species have been planted in the outdoor collections and another 2500 species in the greenhouses. The garden and the adjacent area of the Faculty of Science’s Kotlářská Campus together harbour more than 1000 individuals of 520 species of woody plants and recent surveys recorded 48 species of bryophytes and more than 90 species of macromycetes (Chytrá 2012).

Outdoor collections

The outdoor plant collections include the Plant System with about 1500 species from 85 families of vascular plants situated on an area of 0.3 ha in front of the greenhouses. There is also an example of the Linnaean System. The remaining outdoor parts of the garden comprise plant assemblages organized according to ecological and phytogeographical principles following the original design of Josef Podpěra. The plant communities of southern Moravia and mountains of Central Europe are represented for example by:

Oak-hornbeam forest, the predominant type of potential natural vegetation of southern Moravia, with trees of Carpinus betulus and Quercus petraea, shrubs of Acer campestre and Ligustrum vulgare, herbaceous species such as Hepatica nobilis, Pulmonaria obscura, Stellaria holostea and spring geophytes including Anemone nemorosa, A. ranunculoides, Corydalis cava and Isopyrum thalictroides.

Carpathian beech forest with species typical of the mountain forests of eastern Moravia and Slovakia, in addition to Fagus sylvatica most notably Carex pilosa, and also Actaea spicata, Dentaria bulbifera, Galium odoratum, G. sylvaticum, Hordelymus europaeus, Polygonatum multiflorum and Viola reichenbachiana.

Montane spruce forest and tall-forb grassland give an impression of the mountain vegetation of the Western Carpathians and the Sudetes, including Picea abies, shrubs of Lonicera nigra and Rosa pendulina, numerous ferns (e.g. Athyrium filix-femina, Dryopteris filix-mas and Polystichum aculeatum) and tall herbs such as Aruncus dioicus, Cicerbita alpina and Veratrum album subsp. lobelianum.

Floodplain forest and meadow containing, in particular, the flora of the lower Dyje and Morava floodplains in southern Moravia, e.g. Euphorbia lucida, E. palustris, Filipendula ulmaria, Gratiola officinalis, Iris pseudacorus, Leucojum aestivum and Lythrum salicaria.

Forest-steppe vegetation represents famous sites in southern Moravia, notably the Pavlov Hills and the Pouzdřany Steppe. These plant groups include various species of Festuca and Stipa, Adonis vernalis, Allium flavum, Iris pumila, Potentilla incana and many other continental or southern European species.

Sand-dune vegetation gives an impression of the sand-dune area near the Morava River between the towns of Hodonín and Bzenec in south-eastern Moravia and in south-western Slovakia, with species such as Armeria elongata, Dianthus serotinus, Gypsophila paniculata and Peucedanum oreoselinum.

Serpentinite vegetation is a representation of the Mohelno Serpentinite Steppe in south-western Moravia, including Allium flavum, Bothriochloa ischaemum, Festuca pallens, Genista pilosa, Stipa dasyphylla and Teucrium chamaedrys.

Mire vegetation presents examples of species of Central European bogs and minerotrophic mires with various species of Carex and Eriophorum, and Menyanthes trifoliata in pools.

Aquatic and wetland vegetation is displayed in several garden pools, including species typical of wetlands in the Dyje and Morava River floodplains in southern Moravia. Stratiotes aloides is a remarkable species that was introduced to the garden from southern Moravian floodplain pools before WWII. It later became extinct in the wild and the native plant material preserved in the garden was used as a source for the re-establishment of its populations on original sites.

Weed vegetation of arable land is presented in a small cereal field, including both common weeds and those that have experienced a dramatic decline in Central Europe due to agricultural intensification since the mid-20th century.

The geographical plant groups include European temperate mountain flora displaying plants from the Alps, Carpathians, Pyrenees and Apennines, Balkan mountain flora, Eurasian continental temperate flora (the Caucasus, Siberia and the Himalayas), East Asian temperate flora (mainly China and Japan), Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean flora and a group of North American woody plants. There is a roof garden on the top of the greenhouses featuring succulents and other drought-adapted plants.

Greenhouses

The greenhouses consist of five tunnel-like structures of which the largest (10.5 m high) is situated in the middle. Four are used for public exhibition and the fifth serves as a nursery. The total area of the greenhouses is 1200 m2. The following collections are harboured in the greenhouses:

The tropical collection is dominated by a pool with the South American nymphaeoid Victoria cruziana which has replaced V. regia planted in the old greenhouse in the 1920s–1930s. Other items in the collection are mainly various crops and ornamental plants such as Begonia, Carica papaya, Cocos nucifera, Cyperus papyrus, Gossypium, Musa, Pandanus, Sarracenia, Theobroma cacao, Vanilla planifolia and various orchids.

The collection of ferns, fern allies and cycads includes Blechnum, Dicksonia, Lygodium, Platycerium, Selaginella, Ceratozamia mexicana, Cycas circinalis, C. revoluta, Dioon edule, Encephalartos altensteinii, E. villosus, Stangeria eriopus and Zamia furfuracea.

The subtropical and Mediterranean collection with evergreen shrubs and trees, palms and lianas displays species such as Araucaria bidwillii, A. cunninghamii, Bougainvillea glabra, Ceratonia siliqua, Chamaerops humilis, Eriobotrya japonica, Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Laurus nobilis, Myrtus communis, Olea europaea, Passiflora edulis, Podocarpus neriifolius, P. salicifolius, Strelitzia nicolai, Vitis voinieriana, Washingtonia filifera and the recently added Wollemia nobilis, an Australian ‘living fossil’ from the Araucariaceae family.

The Bromeliaceae collection contains Aechmea, Ananas commosus, Billbergia, Guzmania, Neoregelia, Tillandsia and many others.

The collection of Cactaceae and other succulents tends to be the most highly appreciated by visitors. It displays Agave, Aloe, Echinocactus grusonii, Haworthia, Nolina recurvata, Opuntia and many other species of Cactaceae, Crassulaceae and Euphorbiaceae.