The Botanical Garden of Naples is
another of the "green lungs" in the city, those welcome,
large patches of vegetation that help the city breathe
in the midst of asphalt and traffic. (Others are the Villa Comunale, the Floridiana, and the Vineyard of San Martino.)
Garden in Naples takes up about 30 acres and is located
on via Foria, adjacent to the gigantic old Albergo dei Poveri
(the Royal Poorhouse) and is part of the University of
Naples Department of Natural Science. It is one of the
many scientific and educational facilities instituted
under French rule in Naples
(1806-15). (Another was the observatory.)
The Garden opened in 1810 and had a single director for
the next 50 years.
At present the Garden displays on
the premises around 25,000 samples of vegetation,
covering about 10,000 plant species. Although open to
the public, the Orto Botanico is not, strictly
speaking, a public park. It is really an educational
facility for the university and local high schools and
is separate from the agricultural department of the
University of Naples (on the grounds of the old Royal Palace in Portici). The
Garden is also actively engaged in the preservation of
some endangered plant species.
There is also an
ethnobotany section of the Garden where plants are
studied that are potentially useful medicinally to
humans. Besides smaller structures on the premises,
there are two larger ones: the 17th-century "castle" (image,
below left) recently restored, and the 5,000 sq.
meter Merola Greenhouse.
The castle contains
lecture and display rooms, and houses the ethnobotany
section as well as the fascinating section on
paleobotany, displaying the evolution of plant life
throughout the history of our planet.
photo (top) and photo directly
above this credit line courtesy of
and by Fulvio De Marinis