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The Botanical Garden of Florence: yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The "simples", plants with virtue medications (medicamentum or medicina simplex), were cultivated since the Middle Ages. And “Garden of Simples” (Horto dei semplici) is also the name of the oldest botanical garden in Florence, right in the city center. YESTERDAY Cosimo I de’ Medici, in the sixteenth century, decided to dedicate the garden as an academic complement for the students of the faculty of medicine; the Medici coat of arms is still visible outside the old gate. The official founding date is December 1, 1545, and is considered the third oldest Botanical Garden in the world, after the gardens in Pisa and Padua. botanical garden florenceNiccolò Tribolo designed the Horto, while the choice of plants and their placement was curated by Luca Ghini. Many rare plants enriched the garden in the decades that followed and the great botanist Pier Antonio Micheli, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, made the garden into an international botanical research center. In 1783, however, it was transformed into "experimental agrarian garden" and radically redesigned. It went back to being the "Garden of Simples" in 1847. In 1864, it opened to the public.   TODAY The garden has an area of 2.3 hectares, part of the garden is indoors and the other parts reside outdoors. The design of the flowerbeds is reminiscent of both the model of the medieval Hortus conclusus, which is dedicated to the cultivation of medicinal and aromatic herbs, both the one of the secret garden of the Renaissance villas. The main edifice houses the offices, the library, a laboratory and two large greenhouses. The other five greenhouses, both hot and cold, are located in the garden and are home to many tropical and subtropical plants, palm trees, an ancient collection of Citrus, aquatic plants and a collection of plants for traditional ethnobotanical uses. The main building leads to the terrace, covered by two iron pergolas with climbing roses, from where we go down into the garden. botanical garden florenceSituated at the center of the garden is a stone fountain, with a large tank containing aquatic plants and goldfishes. In addition to the central fountain, there are numerous other fountains scattered in the garden, as well as a pond with lotus plants. In addition, there are areas dedicated to particular groups of plants, such as the flowerbed of food and medicinal plants, or the flowerbed dedicated to the Italian garden.
[Photo Credits: RicciSpeziati via Wikimedia Commons]
[Photo Credits: RicciSpeziati via Wikimedia Commons]
One of the most impressive areas of the garden are the 220 monumental trees, especially a select five of them, such as the Taxus tree planted in 1720, the oldest example of the garden, and the Cork Oak of 1805. Lastly, the Lawn of Conifers is a vast area that houses remarkable, huge and old conifers... or, should we say, it used to...   TOMORROW The garden was severely damaged by the tornado and hail that hit Florence on November 20th, 2014: it is estimated that 90% of the tree heritage was lost or damaged, and some of the greenhouses are heavily compromised. botanical garden damage For that reason, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to finance the revival of the Garden. Our (or rather your!) contribution will be used to donate plants and flowers to celebrate the garden’s reopening, in April, and, later, to restore two greenhouses.   INFORMATION Garden of the Simples – Botanical Garden Via Micheli 3, Florence phone +39.0552756444 web The Garden is currently closed to the public, because of the damage, and it will reopen on April 1, 2015. The Botanical Garden is part of the Natural History Museum of the University of Florence, organized into eight sections located in various parts of the city: Anthropology and Ethnology, Biomedical, Botany, Chemistry, Geology and Paleontology, Mineralogy, Botanical Garden, Zoology.