Places of interestSunday 28 January 2018

The Botanical Garden in Cluj-Napoca - a place of beauty and wellbeing

The Botanical Garden in Cluj-Napoca is a place of rare beauty that also has scientific value

The Greenhouse in the Botanical Garden

The Greenhouse in the Botanical Garden

Attempts to establish a Botanical Garden in Cluj-Napoca date back to 1872, the year when the Franz Josef University was founded. The university’s new Botany Department needed a place to do research and for this purpose they selected the park donated by Count Mikó to the National Transylvanian Museum.

Despite the impressive and promising collection of trees and shrubs that it was possessed of, the park would fail to become a botanical garden after all. With the Zoology Museum and the Chemistry institute built within its midst, the park seemed to be at too many removes from its purpose. However, the director of that time, Aladár Richter, urged the need of such a garden, and as a result, a new piece of land was bought between the years 1910 and 1912 to replace the first one. The new land had undulating pathways, gentle slopes and irregular terrain that were more than propitious for different plant cultures.

Richter, however, didn’t get to design and equip the garden, as he retired soon after the purchase. His successor, St. Gyorffy, also failed to transform the land into the desired botanical garden due to lack of much needed funds. Instead, he put the land to other uses: growing fruit and vegetables for hospitals during World War I.

In May 1919, the management of the Botanical Garden was entrusted to Alexandru Borza, who made it into what it is today.

The new superintendent applied botanical concepts that catered to the wellbeing of the plants first and foremost and only secondly to beauty. The rocks, pools and shady corners are destined to ensure the natural conditions beneficial to the plants and contribute to the scientific value of the place. Furthermore, it is an important research facility of the Botany Department of Babes-Bolyai University.

An interesting fact about all botanical gardens is that they originated as medical plant gardens. The Botanical Garden in Cluj-Napoca pays tribute to this tradition by keeping a special section dedicated to medicinal plants. This is located in the so-called economic section.

The ornamental section is dedicated to decorative species. This section houses tulips, hyacinths, daffodils in spring and roses and garden flowers in summer.

The phytogeographic section is best known for the so-called Japanese garden which contains elements particular to Eastern culture.

Another attraction is the Roman Garden or Pliny’s Garden. At its center is the statue of the Roman goddess Ceres which is flanked by two sarcophagi unearthed in Cluj-Napoca. This garden is especially exciting from a historical point of view, as it is home to plants that used to be grown by peasants in Roman Dacia.

Another part of the garden is the systematic section, which houses equatorial, tropical and subtropical plants. All of these are kept in greenhouses which recreate natural conditions.

The Gypsies’ Rivulet is yet another breathtaking site. A rocky ravine that is overgrown with grass and flowers, it is one of the most attractive spots in the garden. There is also a corner where two confluents of this rivulet meet. The creek is punctuated by three small bridges and a larger one where visitors can stop to admire the scenery.  

The Botanical Garden is replete with paths and narrow trails along which you can allow yourself to get lost while always knowing that you will be able to find your way back.  

Andra Mihaela Cimpean

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