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Vol. 13 No. 3 - July 2007

Garden – A Centre of Excellence for Conservation,
Education and Bio-Aesthetics

By: Anil K. Goel*, R. K. Roy* & S. C. Sharma**

Introduction

National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) at Lucknow (India) is one of the significant plant based national laboratory in India under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi. It was originally set-up by Government of Uttar Pradesh during 1948 as National Botanic Gardens (NBG) and later on taken over by CSIR in 1953.

The Botanic Garden at NBRI has been well known all over the world. It is the third largest and one of the oldest Botanic Gardens in India, besides Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah and Lalbaugh Gardens, Bangalore. Spread over in an area of 25 hectares, it is located in the heart of Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh along southern bank of river Gomti. It is reputed for its well identified and aesthetically displayed plant wealth to capture a living nucleus of various plant species for posterity. Botanic Garden is also a member of BGCI, U.K. and International Association of Botanic Gardens (IABG). A repository of germplasm collection of various tropical and sub-tropical plant species, comprising 5,000 taxa, representing 212 families, the Botanic Garden has rich genetic treasure with the collection of trees, shrubs and herbs of ornamental, economic, medicinal, aromatic and rare importance, hailing from the indigenous and exotic sources.

History

The Botanic Garden surrounds, within its limits, historical ‘Sikander Bagh’ laid out around 1800 AD as a royal garden by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan and later adapted by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last King of Avadh, during the first half of the 19th century. It was Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who gave to the garden its name ‘Sikander Bagh’, after his favourite queen, Sikander Mahal Begum.

Objectives

  • A repository of germplasm collection of diversified groups of taxa with special reference to rare, endangered, endemic, ornamental and economic plant species.

  • Introduction, multiplication, acclimatization, assessment and documentation of taxa procured from world over for developing wide genetic base.

  • Domestication of wild plant species of ornamental significance.

  • Development of new and novel ornamental cultivars for commercial exploitation.

  • Exchange and sale of plant material to the connoisseurs. Supply of authentic plant material for research institutes, universities and other organizations.

  • Organization and participation in Flower Shows and Science Exhibitions.

  • Organization of training courses in Commercial Floriculture.

  • Technical advice/consultancy on landscaping and establishment of Botanic Gardens.

GERMPLASM COLLECTIONS

Plant wealth of over 5,000 species/cultivars in the Botanic Garden is displayed in Arboretum, Conservatory, Cactus & Succulent House, Fern House, Orchidarium, Palm House. A brief account of the arboretum, plant houses and the most popular ornamental crops available in the garden has been furnished below.

Arboretum

The arboretum covers an area of 7 hectares and comprising nearly 400 species of trees and shrubs. Some of the notable indigenous and exotic tree species are: Adansonia digitata, Aegle marmelos, Alstonia macrophylla, Annona muricata, Bauhinia variegata, Brachychiton rupestris, Bixa orellana, Boswellia serrata, Butea monosperma, Chorisia x insigniosa, C. insignis, Coccoloba uvifera, Dalbergia sissoo, Dillenia indica, Ficus benghalensis, F. krishnae, F. religiosa, Jacaranda cuspidifolia, J. mimosaefolia, Kigelia pinnata, Mitragyna parviflora, Oroxylum indicum, Pterocarpus marsupium, Santalum album, Shorea robusta, Strychnos nux-vomica, Syzygium jambos, Tabebuia palmeri, Tecomella undulata, Tectona grandis, Terminalia arjuna, and Wrightia tinctoria etc.

Conservatory

An arch-shaped plant house, in an area of 1370 sq. m., is meant for conservation of indoor plants from tropics and sub-tropics of the world. Nearly 500 species/ cultivars are punctuated in beds and pots aesthetically. Few novel and interesting taxa are: Alocasia x amazonica, Bambusa ventricosa, Dracaena marginata 'Tricolor', Fatsia papyrifera, Ficus 'Long Island', Ginkgo biloba, Heliconia rostrata, Hoya wighti, Nandina domestica, Pachystachys lutea, Vanilla planifolia etc. Besides, a large collection of Aglaonema, Alocasia,Anthurium, Asparagus, Calathea, Chlorophytum, Codiaeum, Dieffenbachia, Dracaena, Maranta, Peperomia, Philodendron, Pandanus, Syngonium  is also displayed aesthetically. 

Cactus and Succulent House

A pagoda shaped glass house meant for the germplasm collection of cacti and succulents from arid regions is centrally located in 284 sq. m area. It conserves about 350 species/varieties. Pants have been displayed in raised beds and in pots. Some of the notable taxa are:  Adenium obesum, Agave parviflora, Beaucarnea recurvata, Cephalocereus senilis, Cereus grandiflorus, C. peruvianus, Cotyledon orbiculata, Dudleya virens, Dykia remotifolia, Echinocactus grusonii, Euphorbia splendens, Gasteria maculata, Gymnocalycium mibanovichii, Haworthia fasciata, Kalanchoe marmorata, Mammillaria echinata, Melocactus nerye, N. stricta, Notonia grandiflora, Opuntia argentina, O. microdasys 'Albida', Pereskia aculeata, Stapelia gigantea, and Y. filamentosa and some of the grafted cacti. Besides, a unique gymnosperm, Welwitschia  mirabilis  known  as “Tree Tumbo” has been introduced from NBI, Kirstenbosch,  RSA during 1989. This species has only 2 leaves throughout its life-span (over 500 years) which elongate continuously in opposite direction. It is very important from educational and evolutionary point of view. Among  SAARC nations only NBRI Botanic Garden possesses this extremely rare taxon.

Fern House

The specially constructed house for growing ferns and fern allies is pyramidal in shape in an area of 400 sq.m. A germplasm collection comprising 60 species is being maintained in fern house. Notable taxa are: Adiantum capillus-veneris, A. peruvianum, Anemia royundifolia, Blechnum occidentale, Bolbitis heteroclite, Diplazium esculentum, Drynaria quercifolia, Equisetum arvense, E. debile, Lygodium flexuosum, Microsorium alternifolium, Nephrolepis cordifolia, N. cordifolia cv. ‘duffii’, N. tuberosa, Ophioglossum reticulatum, Psilotum nudum, Pteris cretica cv. ‘Albolineata’, etc.

Orchidarium

Orchids are a wondrous group of flowering plants known for their floral beauty, diversity and specific habitats. They belong to the family Orchidaceae. Orchid flowers are spectacularly beautiful in wide array of colours and aroma. They have the vase life of 10-30 days and in great demand in the floriculture trade. India has a rich wealth of 170 genera and about 1200 species of orchids. More than 150 taxa of Indian orchids are of floricultural significance. Hardy species of orchids particularly from tropical and sub-tropical regions are being conserved in the newly installed Orchidarium. A collection of about 50 species including the genera  Arachnis, Coelogyne, Dendrobium, Eria, Paphiopedilum (Lady's Slipper Orchids), Peristylis, Spathoglottis, Phaius, Pholidota, Renanthera, Rhynchostylis, Vanda and Vanilla  has been developed for conservation. Some well known orchid cultivars like, Arachnis 'Apple Blossum", 'Annix- Black', 'Spider Orchid', Aranda 'Mosaic Magic', Dendrobium 'Soniard', Vanda 'Diana', 'John-club', 'Prolific', 'Tricolour', 'Miss Jaquine' are also introduced.

Palm House

Palm House covering an area of 765 sq. m., is maintaining the plant resources of family Arecaceae. Palm collections comprise over 70 species displayed in pots of various sizes and in the ground as well. Noteworthy taxa are: Arenga pinnata, Caryota mitis, C. urens, Chamaedorea elegans, Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, Cocos nucifera, Elaies guineensis, Licuala grandis, Livistona chinensis, Phoenix reclinata, P. rupicola, Ptychosperma macarthurii, Sabal palmetto, Thrinax barbadensis and Washingtonia filifera etc.

Bonsai Section

The technique of Bonsai is very popular throughout the world. A rich collection is maintained exhibiting 250 specimens trained in different styles for aesthetic and educative purpose. Some of them are even 45-50 years old.  Important species are: Acacia gotezai, Achrus sapota, Bambusa ventricosa, Callistemon lanceolatus, Citrus microcarpa,  Cycas revoluta, Drypetes roxburghii, Ficus benjamina nuda, F. indica, F. infectoria, Ficus ‘Long Island’, Morinda tinctoria, Psidium guajava, Punica granatum etc. Ficus spp. with their prop roots, are major attraction.

ORNAMENTALS

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea is a popular ornamental plant grown throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. This genus belongs to family Nyctageniaceae and was first reported by Commerson, a French Botanist from Rio-De-Janeiro, Brazil. Later, it was taken to Europe and subsequently introduced in India during 1860. A rich germplasm collection of 200 species/cultivars has been built-up in Bougainvillea Garden exhibiting about 165 varieties as per specific layout plan. The Institute has evolved 22 new cultivars like: ‘Shubhra’, ‘Begum Sikander’, ‘Wajid Ali Shah’, Mary Palmer Special’, ‘Chitra’, ‘Hawain Beauty’, ‘Arujna’, 'Aruna', ‘Los Banos Variegata’, ‘Mahara Variegata’, ‘Pallavi’, ‘Royal Daupline’ etc. which are highly popular in nursery and floricultural trade.

Canna

Canna has magnificent flowers in different colours (bicoloured, spotted, blotched, margined) and remain in bloom almost round the year. A germplasm collection of nearly 50 cultivars is being maintained. Some of the notable ones are: ‘Assault’, ‘Black Knight’, ‘Butter Cup’, ‘King Alfred’, ‘King Humbert’, ‘Lucifer’, ‘Presdient’, ‘Striatus’, ‘New Red’, ‘Orange King’ and 'Trinacria Variegata'. Two new cultivars have been recently developed: Canna generalis ‘Kanchan’ and Canna generalis ‘Agnisikha’.

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum (Asteraceae), is a significant floral crop all over the world. Chrysanthemum is native to China and the National Flower of Japan. The Institute has a status of a National Repository of Chrysanthemum maintaining the largest collection of 250 cultivars. Of these, eighty are evolved at NBRI by conventional method or through mutation breeding. Some of the important cultivars viz.: ‘Ajai’, ‘Apsara’, ‘Bindiya’, ‘Birbal Sahani’, ‘Chandi’ ‘Gauri’, ‘Guldusta’, ‘Jaya’, ‘Jayanti’, ‘Jubilee’, ‘Kundan’, ‘Lilith’, ‘Maghi’, ‘Peet Singar’, ‘Sharad Mala’, ‘Sharad Har’, ‘Shyamal’, ‘Suneel’, ‘Vasantika’, etc. have become immensely popular among growers and find mention in  leading nursery catalogues. A large number of ‘Dwarf-No- Pinch' type varieties have been selected and suitable for mini-pot culture. A Mini Chrysanthemum cv. 'Mother Teresa' got US Patent (Patent No. PP 13678) during 2003.

Cycads

Cycads are considered as the Living Fossils. They belong to a group of plants having ancient lineage possessing great significance from the evolutionary point of view and have been known from early Permian period, nearly 225 million years ago. A rich germplasm collection of cycads comprising 35 species under 8 genera viz.: Cycas, Dioon, Encephalartos, Lepidozamia, Macrozamia, Microcycas, Stangeria and Zamia, hailing from various phyto-geographical regions of Australia, India, South Africa and South America. This is the richest collection of cycads among all the Botanic Gardens in India. Further, collection of Cycads viz.: Microcycas calocoma, Zamia floridana, Z. furfuracea, Z. portoricensis in the Conservatory is of high academic significance from evolutionary point of view. Microcycas calocoma is a extremely rare cycad, introduced in the garden from Cuba and designated as the National Plant of Cuba.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus is a native of South Africa and belongs to family Iridaceae. Its cut-flowers can stay fresh for 5-6 days and used for vase decoration as well as bouquets. Foreseeing its immense potentiality as cut-flower in floricultural trade, NBRI initiated R & D work during 1970s for developing the new cultivars and standardization of agro-technology for commercial cultivation suitable for north Indian plains. Germplasm collection of 110 varieties has been developed besides development of new cultivars. Notable ones are: ‘Rashmi’, ‘Surekha’, ‘Tambari, ‘Classic White, ‘Neelima’ and ‘Urvashi. Training programmes have been organized for the transfer of technology to nearly 1000 progressive farmers and entrepreneurs all over the country along with planting material under the Rural Development Programme.

Lotus

Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn., the ‘Sacred Lotus’ is an elegant creation of nature. Genus Nelumbo belongs to family Nelumbonaceae and is represented by two species namely, N. lutea ‘Yellow Lotus’. Since ancient times, lotus flower has been considered as a divine symbol of purity and peace. Nelumbo is also an important ornamental in floriculture and landscaping. Germplasm collection of Indian and exotic races in different shades of pink, white and yellow is being maintained in the aquatic bodies of the Botanic Garden. Besides, the germplasm collection of Nymphaeas and Euryale ferox (Makhana) is also being conserved in the aquatic bodies.  

PLANT INTRODUCTION

It is one of the most significant and paramount activities for the enrichment of germplasm collection and developing wide genetic base. Plant material is procured from over 150 Botanic Gardens in India and abroad on exchange. Some of the important plant species recently introduced in the garden are: Adansonia za, Adenanthera microsperma, Billergia alfonsi-jonnis, Clerodendrum speciosissimum, Coreopsis grandiflora, Crescentia mirabilis, Dasilirion glucophyllum, D. serratifolium, Draecana draco, Ephedra tweediana, Hernandia nymphaefolia, Hesperaloe parviflora,  Jacaranda cuspidifolia, Khaya senegalensis, Nolina longifolia, N. stricta, Pavetta revoluta, Senecio confuses, Sophora secundiflora, and Zamia pumila, etc.

EX-SITU CONSERVATION

Flora of Indian subcontinent is very rich in diversity and endemism. Due to various natural and developmental  activities, over 4,000 taxa are under varying degrees of threat or even have become extinct. NBRI Botanic Garden plays important role in the conservation of genetic diversity and acts as an ideal  centre for preserving RET taxa. A rich collection of some rare endangered, endemic and threatened plants consists of Adhatoda beddomei, Allium hookerii, Anogeissus sericea var. nummularia, Commiphora wightii, Cycas beddomei, C. pectinata, Dendrobium nobile,  Dischidia  benghalensis, Erythrina resupinata, Frerea indica, Grewia optiva, Hoya wightii, Hyphaene dichotoma, Phoenix rupicola, Rauvolfia serpentina, Sophora mollis, Tecomella undulata, Trachycarpus takil,  Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla walkerii, Walsura candollei, etc.

Touch-‘n’-Smell Garden

A Touch –'n'-Smell Garden is spread over an area of 0.1 ha has been developed for blinds and physically disabled persons. Hanging potted plants are displayed at a convenient height so that disabled visitors in wheel chairs can easily touch, feel and smell them. Plant labels and legends displayed are written in Braille system. Pre-recorded information through audio system has also been installed. A variety of plant species either having fragrant flowers, aromatic / coarse leaves have been planted in this garden. Some of the notable ones are: Buddelia madagascarensis, Cestrum nocturnum, Crinum asiaticum, Cymbopogon martini, Ixora parviflora, Jasminum spp., Lantana camara ‘Flava’, Nyctanthes arbortristis, Ocimums and  Polianthes tuberosa.   

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

Plants are important constituents of the biota on this planet and greatly influence the quality of global environment. Today human survival is threatened due to the destruction of plant diversity because we can live on this planet only as long as there are plants. Botanic Gardens comprising arboretum, herbal garden, conservatories, green houses, experimental/display plots, aquatic bodies conserving incredibly diverse plant resources from various climatic regimes offer immense opportunities to the school children, college students, researchers as well as the general public to learn about the nature intricately. Visits of students, researchers, progressive farmers and the entrepreneurs   are frequently organized in the botanic garden. Summer training courses for the school children are also organized from time to time. Thus the garden is dedicated to environmental education and the conservation of plant diversity.

SALE OF PLANTS AND SEEDS

Authentic plant material of a wide variety of indigenous, exotic and ornamental plant species is propagated for sale to inculcate the bio-aesthetic sense among the general public and for making the herbarium specimens for students and research scholars from various colleges, universities and institutions. 

TECHNICAL CONSULTANCY, LANDSCAPING AND TRAINING

Botanic Garden renders technical advice on landscaping and ornamental horticulture, for improving the environment, to individuals, private and public sectors and  Government Organizations. Short education-cum-training programmes are conducted on cultivation of ornamentals, landscaping, garden layouts, bonsai and latest techniques in horticultural practices. Such programmes are generally sponsored by SIDBI and National Horticulture Mission for the horticulture officers, rural unemployed youths and the progressive farmers.

ANNUAL FLOWER SHOWS

The Institute organizes two Annual Flower Shows viz: Chrysanthemum & Coleus Show in December and Rose & Gladiolus Show during January every year. These shows are of international standard displaying R&D work on ornamental horticulture for promoting interest among the garden lovers, progressive farmers, connoisseurs and the general public towards the cultivation or ornamental plants for improving their environmental surroundings.

FUTURE PLAN OF WORK

NBRI Botanic Garden has been recognized as the Centre of Excellence by the   Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, New Delhi. Under this programme  as well as under the CSIR's Supra Institutional project the following new creations have been proposed.

Proposed Additions

  • Phytotron (Climate Controlled Plant House)

A phytotron with various chambers having different climatic regimes will be  installed in the botanic garden simulating photoperiod, light intensity, temperature, relative humidity conditions for the ex-situ conservation studies on various groups of plants with special emphasis to the RET taxa and other biologically interesting plants The studies will also be taken-up about the effect of increased carbon dioxide on  plants in atmosphere during the next 20 -30 years. It will be examined by increasing the carbon dioxide levels under the controlled conditions for different candidate species of plants.

  • Rain Water Harvesting

  • Use of Solar Energy for lighting in the Botanic Garden

  • Cycad Garden

  • Moss Garden

  • Seed-Bank

*National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow- 226 001, India
E-mail:
Anil K. Goel <anilkumar_goel@rediffmail.com>
R.K. Roy <roynbri@rediffmail.com>

**Former Head, Botanic Garden, National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow-226001, India
E-mail:
sharmasc_bougainvilla@yahoo.com


This article has been reproduced from the archives of EnviroNews - Newsletter of ISEB India.


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