BY MARGHERITA LOMBARDI
The Botanical Garden of Palermo is located next to Villa Giulia, bordering the Kalsa district. In 1779, to accompany the newly founded Accademia di Regi studi, which had annexed the chair of Botany and Medical Matters, a small botanical garden was created, adjacent to the Porta di Carini, but became insufficient for the needs of the chair, in 1786 it was transferred to its present location.
Between 1789 and 1795 the main buildings were built, the Gymnasium and the two lateral bodies of the Tepidarium and the Calidarium, in neoclassical style, designed by the French architect Leon Dufurny.
Originally the garden, enriched with pools and fountains and a magnificent Aquarium, was divided into rectangular plots to divide the collections according to Linnaeus' system, but in the early nineteenth century it was modified. The Garden was still enlarged in later periods, and a grove of exotic plants and the Winter Garden, for example, was created in a large greenhouse. In the 1930s it acquired its definitive appearance, with the entrance area divided into regular areas and the southern area furrowed by more articulated paths.
The collections. The Botanical Garden of Palermo hosts, in total, 12,000 species, mainly from South Africa, Australia and South America. Among these, there are the giant specimen of Ficus macrophylla, symbol of the Garden, the collection of marsh plants that includes lotuses (Nelumbum nucifera), water lilies and papyrus (Cyperus papyrus); the palms of the genus Phoenix spp., Cycads; species belonging to the families Moracee, Mimosacee, Rutacee, Euphorbiacee, Aizoacee, Asclepiadacee, Liliacee, Crassulacee and Cactacee, citrus fruits and a fragrant collection of plumerie, a plant as widespread in Palermo as medlar is on the terraces and gardens of northern cities.
Among the botanical curiosities are Sapindus mukorossi, Pimenta acris, Coffea arabica, Ficus sycomorus, Mimosa spegazzinii, Crescentia alata, Saccharum officinarum, Manihot utilissima and Carica papaya.
The Botanical Garden of Palermo is responsible for the introduction and diffusion in Mediterranean countries of Citrus deliciosa and Eriobotrya japonica. You can admire substantial collections of dried plants that are preserved in the Herbarium Mediterraneum. Every year a catalogue is published of seeds of both wild plants from Sicily and cultivated in the Garden, available for exchanges with scientific institutions from all continents.
The tallest plant in the Garden is an annual Araucaria columnaris .
Spectacular the avenue enclosed by large specimens Ceiba speciosa (formerly Chorisia speciosa).