Madrid Botanical Gardens
The exclusive world of the plants protected in Spain’s botanical gardens invites you to take an extraordinary trip through the most breathtaking and diverse flora on the planet. Their locations in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, Cordoba and Tenerife make these gardens a high quality alternative for the most demanding travelers.
Spain’s botanical gardens are designed as places for experience and education. They are ideal for children and young people, offering numerous activities that promote knowledge and respect for the environment. They also offer the chance to discover Spain’s unique and rich array of flora, characterised by abundance and variety on account of the climate conditions, suitable for the adaptation of many different plant species from the five continents.
Spain has an important botanical tradition. Far back in history it already had gardens of herbs and medicinal plants for study and experimentation. Spain’s imperial expansion brought with it the chance to discover the flora of lands discovered by the explorers, with numerous botanical experts coming to the fore and the adaptation of a new, unprecedented world in Europe.
Today’s Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid were moved from their previous location at Huerta de Migas Calientes by order of Charles III, and inaugurated in 1781 on Paseo del Prado. They followed plans by Francisco Sabatini. He designed a sober, geometrical garden in neo-Classical style to attend to the botanists’ scientific requirements. The famous Juan de Villanueva was to complete the design of this floral gem, which contained numerous previously unknown species that came back from scientific expeditions to Spanish America.
The Canary Islands’ balmy climate was the reason for the creation of the Orotava Climatisation Garden (Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife), home to more than 2,000 species, many of which are from tropical countries, and a spectacular collection of palm trees. Its geographical location means these gardens offer visitors to the islands the chance to see unique plants in Europe.
Botanical studies took off in the 19th century, with the rise of private plant collections that comprised small botanical gardens. Some of these survive to this day – beautiful areas for learning and leisure. This is the case of Mar i Murtra, covering 15 hectares of the cliffs in Blanes, between Barcelona and Girona; La Concepción Gardens, in Malaga, whose romantic paths are flanked by flora from South America, the Philippines and Australia; La Saleta, in Galicia; Cap Roig on the Costa Brava and S’Avall in Majorca.
One of the most important events of the 19th century was the creation of the Valencia Botanical Gardens. Inaugurated in 1802, they are now a living museum with 30,000 Mediterranean plants. Their collections contain desert, medicinal and carnivorous plants, as well as some outstanding species of palm trees.
Private initiative continued in the 20th century with the opening of the Viera y Clavijo Botanical Gardens, in Gran Canaria. Inaugurated in 1959, they conserve numerous examples of Canary Islands flora, with around 500 plants endemic to the islands, some of which are unique survivors of previous geological eras. They cover 27 hectares, representing all the different floral areas of the islands. Also in the Canaries, special mention should be made of the Lanzarote Cactus Garden. Designed by architect César Manrique, it is a wonderful example of integration with nature. It covers 5,000 square metres, with species from places as diverse as Peru, Mexico, Chile, the United States, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Morocco and the Canary Islands.
Botanical gardens have continued to be created to this day, with three examples that focus on the scientific and technical requirements of botanical science: Cordoba Botanical Gardens, inaugurated in 1987; Juan Carlos I Royal Botanical Gardens, in Alcalá de Henares, now a vital centre for the study and conservation of the flora of the Regions of Madrid and Castile-La Mancha, with its own germ plasma bank; and the Barcelona Botanical Gardens, located in Montjuïc Park, offering an innovative concept since they opened in 1999. Far from offering collections of unique species, these gardens aim to represent natural ecosystems. Here you can take a trip around the world’s Mediterranean climate zones, from the Northern Hemisphere (starting with the Mediterranean Basin), through to the coast of California. Then, in the Southern Hemisphere, you visit the “Mediterranean” areas of Chile, South Africa and the two Australian regions.
Spain is a pioneer in incorporating botanical gardens in the daily life of the population, as was the case in Seville for Expo92, or the tropical garden at Atocha Railway Station (Madrid). Its 7,000 plants with all kinds of tropical species make time stand still for a moment.