Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/January 1896/The Botanical Garden of Buitenzorg, Java
|THE BOTANICAL GARDEN OF BUITENZORG, JAVA.|
THE importance of establishing botanical gardens—the utility of which is incontestable—in suitable spots, and particularly in its colonies, has been perceived by nearly every nation. The English, as early as 1786, planted a very fine garden at Calcutta, under the direction of Colonel Robert Hyde; and in 1821 they created the Garden of Peradeniya, near Kandy, in Ceylon. The French Government has laid out interesting botanical gardens at Saigon, in Cochin China, and on the island of Réunion.
The Dutch established in 1817 the Garden of Buitenzorg, on the island of Java, and have made it the finest in the world. It is situated on one of the long ridges that descend on the north from the Salak Mountain to two hundred and eighty metres above the level of the sea. In 1857 the garden was arranged by M. Hasskari, botanist at the time, and at the suggestion of M. Diard, director of a French Natural History Society, into sections, in which the plants of the same family were grouped together. As a result of this scientific organization, which then existed only incompletely in other gardens, the establishment took the first rank. It possesses other considerable advantages growing out of the exceptional importance of its collections of all tropical species, and the generous hospitality with which it receives all foreign naturalists who resort to it for study. The present director, Dr. Treub, an accomplished botanist, has labored constantly for the improvement of the plantations. The garden has been much enlarged within recent years.
The Dutch Government has comprehended from the very foundation of this establishment that a single botanical garden would not be enough, and has supplemented it with annexes. The gardens supported by the state are divided into three parts: the botanical garden of Buitenzorg, the most celebrated, the surface of which covers one hundred and forty-eight acres and a quarter, situated in the city next to the residence of the governor; the agricultural garden of Tjikeumenh, of one hundred and seventy-
three acres; and the garden of forestry, with a reserve in the virgin forest, which together occupy seven hundred and forty-one acres.
The climate of Buitenzorg and its vicinity is especially favorable the development of plants. It is at the same time very warm, the mean temperature being 82° or 83° F., while during the dry monsoon the thermometer may rise to nearly 90° F. The constant moisture, afforded by a rainfall that amounts to more than twelve feet of water a year, gives the culmination of these conditions. In Holland, where it rains a great deal, the annual mean is only about twenty-six inches.
A number of the trees in the garden have grown extraordinarily. Some palm trees of the genus Oreodaxa, planted when very young along the borders of an alley, grew in five years to a height of more than thirty-two feet; while plants of Albizzia Moluccanna grew in the same time to about sixty-five feet. The section of palms, the ferns, climbing plants, and gigantic lianas surpasses in interest all that can be found in any other botanical gardens.
As a result of the perfect scientific arrangement of the garden, the stranger, with a plan in his hand, which is furnished gratuitously to all who wish to work there, can find his way at once to whatever section he is most interested in. Numbers, referred to the catalogue, are marked on each species of the several families. When foreign students arrive, they are received immediately by the director, and assigned a place in the grand laboratory where they can study as they will, free of charge. A small library of the books most in demand and all the materials needed for experiments are kept conveniently at hand in the great room. A photographic laboratory is very near; next is the great laboratory containing the old botanical books and a complete collection of modern periodical publications of all countries. These journals represent all subjects related to botany, agricultural chemistry, and pharmacy. This library is situated in the pavilion containing the collection of herbaria, and behind this is the laboratory where poisonous plants are studied. In buildings by the side of these are collections representing all the forest plants of the country.
The agricultural garden of Tjikeumenh is twenty minutes' carriage ride away. The road is a charming one, bordered by villas with luxuriant flower gardens and fine trees. Strangers can also work in this garden, as at Buitenzorg, and are given separate laboratories, arranged somewhat like those in the museum at Paris. To the garden of forestry is a ride of five hours. The
excursion is one for which supplies have to be taken, but the country is a very fine and picturesque one, and the time passes without our thinking that we have been long on the road. The pavilion of Tjibodas, where visitors are received, is situated at an altitude of about fifteen hundred metres, and contains every desirable comfort. Foreign students have the privilege of a saloon furnished with a library and a large room for work. A dining room and a few bedrooms are provided, for there is no hotel. The garden of forestry, situated about halfway up the old volcano of Gedé, is planted chiefly with Australian and Japanese trees and shrubs. Of these, perhaps the most remarkable are the curious specimens of the Australian Xantoroa actinis in front of the mountain pavilion. The forest of Tjibodas, in which the garden is placed, is a remarkable one. Paths have been traced which lead by numerous windings to interesting spots, up to the height of about two thousand metres. Outside of these paths one could not go three steps on account of the impenetrable thickness of the woods. The ground is carpeted with a world of mosses and finely
cut ferns, of the most surprising and various forms. In the trees of from one hundred to one hundred and twenty feet high are masses of orchids, ferns, and lianas to make one dream, away up to the topmost branches. The lianas in some places form complete stalagmites of verdure, so thickly covered are their supple stems with mosses and broad-leaved parasites. They form an inextricable but transparent network, through which the rays of the sun pass to lighten up the minutest details of these rare beauty spots.
The vegetation varies constantly as we ascend the slope of the Gedé, and seems to grow more and more interesting.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from La Nature.