Botanical gardens are more than the sum of their flora. Originally cultivated with medicinal herbs in mind, classical botanical gardens soon hosted flowers and trees from around the world to study, educate, and offer an aesthetically-pleasing place for visitors. More recently, research gardens have expanded their missions to include conservation – meaning your entry fee is helping to maintain world biodiversity. "Most of these gardens are curated and displayed like museum objects in a way that paintings are displayed in an art museum," says Morris Arboretum's executive director Paul W. Meyer. "And these collections double as conservation repositories." We consulted Meyer and Katy Moss Warner, head of the American Horticultural Society, to find exemplary botanical gardens from around the world that are worth traveling to see.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (South Africa)
Kirstenbosch is part of the South Africa's national botanical garden system and unique in that it preserves and displays almost exclusively indigenous plants. The coastal edges of South Africa form the Cape Floristic Region, one of the world's six distinguished floral kingdoms, and the majority of the 9,000 plant species can be found here. The garden's 89 acres exhibit more than 7,000 species from five of the country's six biomes, with a cycad collection.
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Beyond the gardens, the estate's other 1,300 acres serve as protected wildlife area, and connect to Table Mountain National Park, making it a no-brainer to extend the day with a hike through natural forest and fynbos (a natural shrubland).