Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens – Kandy
Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens was established back in 1843, and these delightful gardens were planted by British Colonialist leaders aback when the Kingdom of Kandy was under their power. Among its long and impressive history, twisted with colonialism and technical development, the garden is viewed as a vital national asset for the island of Sri Lanka.
Over 4000 species of flowers, including a vast collection of colourful orchids, medicinal plants, spices, palm trees, and more, these gardens attract nearly 2 million visitors annually. Significantly adding to floriculture, butterfly and birdlife conservation, and concentrating on the island's sustainability and biodiversity, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens is genuinely an arcadia of tropical greenery, with abundant bamboos lianas and lofty trees to walk amongst.
On entering the magnificent city of Kandy, the sight of the gardens is forced to lure you in for a leisurely experience walking through its exquisitely landscaped grounds.
The history of the Royal Botanic Gardens dates back to 1371 when King Wickramabahu III ruled the kingdom and maintained a court in Peradeniya. It was during the reign of King Kirti Sri (1747-1780) that the garden was officially established as a royal garden. King Rajadhi Rajasirighe resided in the garden from 1780 to 1798, where a temporary residence was constructed.
The garden witnessed various developments over time. Notably, a vihara (Buddhist monastery) and dagoba (stupa) were constructed during the reign of King Wimala Dharma, and King Rajadhi Rajasinghe made further improvements. However, during the English occupation of Kandy, the vihara and dagoba were unfortunately destroyed.
Establishment of the Gardens
In 1821, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, began to take shape under the initiative of Mr Alexander Moon. Following the final conquest of the Kandyan Kingdom, Moon cleared and opened the South West portion of the gardens, predominantly planting cinnamon and coffee. In his "Catalogue of Ceylon Plants", published in 1824, Moon documented the botanical and native names of 1,127 plant species indigenous to the island.
Contributions of Mr Alexander Moon
Mr Alexander Moon played a crucial role in the early development of the Royal Botanic Gardens. His efforts paved the way for future advancements, and he contributed significantly to the cataloguing and study of the island's flora. Moon's work laid a solid foundation for the establishment's future growth and reputation.
Development under Mr George Gardner
Upon the appointment of Mr George Gardner as the Superintendent in 1844, the Royal Botanic Gardens entered a phase of active expansion and exploration. When Gardner assumed his role, only 40 acres of the total 147 acres were under cultivation. The land is primarily served for growing jak fruit, coconuts, and vegetables for governmental sales in Kandy. Gardner, apart from making essential improvements within the garden's premises, dedicated himself to exploring the country to collect and study its flora.
Dr Thwaites and His Contributions
Dr Thwaites succeeded Gardner and held the position of Superintendent for over 30 years. Under his capable management, the Royal Botanic Gardens flourished and gained worldwide recognition. Dr Thwaites significantly contributed to the knowledge of Sri Lanka's flora and extended the gardens' beauty and usefulness. He established the Museum of Economic Botany and opened branch gardens in Badulla and Anuradhapura. Dr Thwaites also initiated the publication of "The Flora of Ceylon," a monumental work completed by Sir Joseph D. Hooker after his passing in 1896.
Expansion of Botanic Gardens in Sri Lanka
The establishment of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya marked the beginning of a series of botanical gardens in Sri Lanka. In 1861, the Hakgala Botanic Gardens were established with a focus on introducing Cinchona into the country. Later, in 1876, the Gampaha (Henarathgoda) Botanic Garden was inaugurated to cultivate and study rubber plants. These gardens were vital in developing Sri Lanka's agricultural and botanical sectors.
Dr Henry Trimen and Further Advancements
Dr Henry Trimen succeeded Dr Thwaites and continued to enhance the beauty and usefulness of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Under his leadership, the Gardens witnessed significant advancements, including establishing the Museum of Economic Botany, opening branch gardens in Badulla and Anuradhapura, and publishing "The Flora of Ceylon." Dr Trimen's tenure further solidified the institution's reputation.
The Department of Agriculture
The Royal Botanic Gardens was pivotal in developing the Department of Agriculture in 1912. The Gardens shifted their focus towards economic botany and agriculture, contributing to the country's agricultural sector. This transition marked a new chapter in the institution's scientific work and research.
Notable Superintendents and Curators
Several notable individuals have contributed to the growth and development of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Mr HF Macmillan, appointed as the Curator in 1895 and later promoted to Superintendent in 1912, made significant improvements to the gardens. During his tenure, the Gardens expanded, and Macmillan authored "A Handbook of Tropical Planting and Gardening," a valuable resource for tropical horticulture. Mr T.H. Parsons succeeded Macmillan as the Curator in 1914 and continued to uphold the institution's standards.
In recent years, the Royal Botanic Gardens has focused on establishing new gardens and conservation efforts. The Mirijjawila Botanic Gardens, initiated in 2006, aims to conserve dry zone plants. This 300-acre garden is the largest in Sri Lanka, established after independence. The Botanic Gardens at Lefkowitz, Avissawella, also serves as an ex-situ conservation site for wet zone flora. Plans are underway to establish five more botanic gardens before 2016, demonstrating the institution's commitment to conservation and research.
Responsibilities of the Botanic Gardens
Today, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, shoulders various responsibilities. These include the management and development of Botanic Gardens, the National Herbarium, Medicinal Plant Gardens, gardens attached to the official residences and offices of the President and Prime Minister, Commonwealth War Cemeteries, and the preservation of historic trees such as the Sacred Bo Tree in Anuradhapura. The Gardens continue to play a significant role in the conservation and study of Sri Lanka's diverse plant life.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, stands as a testament to the rich history and dedication to botanical research in Sri Lanka. With its expansive area, diverse plant collections, and numerous contributions to botanical science, the Gardens have become an integral part of the country's cultural and natural heritage. Its ongoing efforts in conservation and research ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from the wealth of knowledge and beauty preserved within its grounds.
1. What is the total area of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya? The Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, covers a total area of 147 acres (0.59 km2).
2. Who manages the Royal Botanic Gardens? The Royal Botanic Gardens is governed by the Division of National Botanic Gardens, which operates under the Department of Agriculture.
3. Who established the Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya? The Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, was established by Mr Alexander Moon in 1821.
4. What are some notable contributions of the Royal Botanic Gardens? The Royal Botanic Gardens has significantly contributed to studying and conservating Sri Lanka's flora. It has played a vital role in developing the Department of Agriculture and establishing various botanical gardens in the country.
5. What are the recent developments in the Royal Botanic Gardens? Recent developments include establishing the Mirijjawila Botanic Gardens for the conservation of dry zone plants and the establishment of the Botanic Gardens at Lefkowitz, Avissawella, to preserve wet zone flora. Plans are also in place to establish other botanic gardens in the coming years.