Botanical garden of Bologna


The Botanical Garden of the University of Bologna was born in 1568, based on a project by Ulisse Aldrovandi; in Italy it follows that of Padua, Pisa and Florence. The first seat was in the city center, where some hundreds of plants, mainly medicinal and exotic plants, were placed, as suggested by the uses of the time and the interests of naturalists. Later it was moved in 1587 near Porta s. Stephen; in 1803 the Botanical Garden reached the site where we can still admire it today, in a land of about two hectares, where there were already trees of considerable size.
Inside the botanical garden we find numerous species of herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees; in the collection of essences two display criteria have been followed over time:
- Following the method and interests of the founders of the Botanical Garden, over the centuries, exotic plants, particular specimens and medicinal plants have been collected, which constituted the ancient vegetable garden of the simple.
- Following the most modern vision of the botanical garden, as a place for dissemination and teaching, some reconstructions of natural environments have been established within the garden.
All the essences present in the Botanical Garden are equipped with plates that identify the species, the Family and the place of geographical distribution.
The deciduous forest
It is a small surveyed area that hosts several arboreal plants, some of which have recently been introduced from the woods of the hills around Bologna (Fraxinus ornus L., Ostrya carpinifolia Scop. Etc.). The herbaceous plants of the undergrowth were introduced in accordance with the theme developed by the arboreal vegetation.
The Garden of Simples
Progenitor of the Botanical Gardens, the Orto dei Semplici, or Hortus simplicium, is a place destined for the cultivation and study of medicinal plants in the Middle Ages. "Simple" were called, in medieval terminology, the healing principles that were obtained directly from nature, while "Composites" were the drugs obtained by mixing and treating different substances. The drugs were subjected to various treatments (drying, maceration, etc.) in the laboratory called, with the Latin term, workshop. Therefore, medicinal plants are still called "officinal" today. The Orto dei Semplici now reconstituted within the space of the Botanical Garden of the University takes up the plant and recalls the spirit of the first Aldrovandian Garden.
The plain forest and the pond
It includes a body of water with stagnant vegetation, a peripheral belt of semi-submerged plants and a flooded prairie. Next is a willow belt and an area dedicated to the reconstruction of a meso-hygrophilous forest with poplars and willows, with white poplar as a dominant tree species.

Botanical garden of Bologna: Let's visit the vegetable garden

The bastion
Located at the northern end of the garden, the bastion, belonging to the ancient city walls, contains numerous deciduous tree plants, almost all indigenous and representative of the flora of the Apennine woods; the eastern portion, with more arid and more sun-exposed soil, contains a collection of evergreen shrubs and trees from the Mediterranean woods.
The greenhouses
Two greenhouses house a collection of tropical plants, including tree species of food interest, ferns, bromeliads and epiphytic orchids; one welcomes the collection of succulent plants created by Prof. Giuseppe Lodi, one of the largest in Italy; a last small greenhouse is dedicated to a rich collection of carnivorous plants
We visit the Garden
Already near the entrance we feel overwhelmed by imposing specimens of conifers and deciduous trees, some details, others present also in our country. During the visit, "traditional" spaces alternate, such as the garden of medicinal plants, the tanks with aquatic plants (exotic and otherwise), the Bosco Park, a large lawn in which isolated trees grow, mostly originating in the temperate zones of our hemisphere; and more "modern" spaces, we can in fact admire the reconstruction of the Mediterranean Macchia, the floodplain forest, the beech forest, as well as a large pond, where a colorful rock garden is being developed.
Strolling along the park paths the stimuli for observation are innumerable, all year round.
Spring, the moment of maximum explosion and magnificence of the plant world, is preceded by punctual signs, such as the precocious and fragrant flowering of Calicanto and those of Hazel and Corniolo, which color yellow various points of the park forest, while some strips of grass stain of the snowdrops white.
During the autumn, on the other hand, we can admire the magnificent colors that the leaves of many trees take before they fall and in winter, on the now bare branches, hang fruits with shapes that are often unusual and bizarre.
Some informations
The Botanical Garden of Bologna is located on the outskirts of the university district, in Via Imerio 42, it is also reachable on foot from the train station; it is located in the center of bologna, so you can reach it by car or public transport.
The entrance is free and the garden is open from Monday to Friday, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm; Saturday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.
During the school year, guided tours are organized for children and schools, further information on these activities can be found on the following web page
This article was prepared thanks to the collaboration of Dr. Umberto Mossetti; further information can be found on the pages of the site dedicated to this botanical garden from which photographs were also taken.