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The Palm House in the Royal Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a scientific centre for the study of plants, their diversity and conservation, as well as a popular tourist attraction. Originally founded in 1670 as a physic garden to grow medicinal plants, today it occupies four sites across ScotlandEdinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore — each with its own specialist collection. The RBGE's living collection consists of more than 15,000 plant species, (41,00 accessions) whilst the herbarium contains in excess of 3 million preserved specimens. The Edinburgh site is the main garden.



The Edinburgh botanic garden was founded in 1670 at St. Anne's Yard, near Holyrood Palace, by Dr. Robert Sibbald and Dr. Andrew Balfour. It is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain after Oxford's. In 1763, the garden's collections were moved away from the city's pollution to a site on the road to Leith, and the garden moved to its present location at Inverleith in 1820. The Temperate Palm House, which remains the tallest in Britain to the present day, was built in 1858.

The botanic garden at Benmore became the first Regional Garden of the RBGE in 1929. It was followed by the gardens at Logan and Dawyck in 1969 and 1978.[1]

The garden at Edinburgh

The Botanics at Edinburgh is a hugely important player in a worldwide network of institutions seeking to ensure that biodiversity is not further eroded. The RBGE is actively involved in, and coordinates numerous in situ and ex situ conservation projects both in the UK and internationally. The three main cross-cutting themes of scientific work at the RBGE are: Scottish Biodiversity, Plants & Climate Change, and Conservation.

In addition to the RBGE's scientific activities the garden remains a popular destination for both tourists and locals. Locally known as "The Botanics", the garden is a popular place to go for a walk, particularly with young families. Entrance to the botanic garden is free, although a small entry charge exists for the glasshouses. During the year the garden hosts many events including live performances, guided tours and exhibitions. The RBGE is also an important centre for education, offering taught courses across all levels.

Living collection

Nearly 36,000 plants are grown at the Botanics in Edinburgh or its three smaller satellite gardens located in other parts of Scotland. These represent nearly 15,000 different species from all over the world, or about 5% of all known plant species.

Some notable collections at the botanic garden Edinburgh include:

  • Alpine Plants
  • Chinese Hillside
  • Cryptogamic Garden
  • The Glasshouses
    • Palmhouse
      • Temperate Palms
      • Tropical Palms
    • Orchids and Cycads
    • Ferns and Fossils
    • Plants and people (including Giant Water Lily pond)
    • Temperate lands
    • Rainforest Riches
    • Arid Lands
    • Montane tropical house (including Carnivorous plants)
    • Wet Tropical House
  • Peat Walls
  • The Queen Mother's memorial garden.
  • Rock Garden
  • Scottish Heath Garden
  • Woodland Garden


The RBGE Herbarium (situated in a purpose built facility at the Edinburgh site) is considered a world-leading botanical collection, housing in excess of 3 million specimens. Prior to the formation of the Herbarium, plant collections tended to be the private property of the Regius Keeper. The Herbarium in its present form came with the fusion of the collections of the University of Edinburgh and the Botanical Society of Edinburgh in 1839-40. RBGE's Herbarium moved into its present, purpose-built home in 1964.

Over the years, a large number of collections have been added, belonging to individuals such as R.K. Greville and John Hutton Balfour, and institutions including the Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Hull. The most important historical collection is that of George Walker Arnott, which came with the University of Glasgow's foreign herbarium deposited on permanent loan in 1965. This collection contains specimens from all the major mid-19th century collectors, especially from India, North and South America, and South Africa, including type material of species described by ‘Hooker & Arnott'. From the early 20th century, collections have been made by members of staff.


RBGE's Library is Scotland's national reference collection for specialist botanical and horticultural resources. Housing around 70,000 books and 150,000 periodicals the research library is one of the country's largest . It has been built up to support the specific subject fields researched and taught at RBGE - Garden staff and students are its main users, along with visiting researchers. However, as a national reference collection, the Library is also open to members of the public, either in person or by telephone or e-mail.

Satellite gardens


Situated on the West Coast of Scotland, Benmore Botanic Garden experiences a wetter and milder oceanic climate than the main site in Edinburgh. Benmore grows trees and shrubs from high rainfall areas, especially conifers and rhododendrons. Highlights of the collection include an avenue of Sequoiadendron and a recently refurbished Fernery, exhibiting rare ferns from both Britain and abroad.


Situated to the south of the Scottish Border town of Peebles, Dawyck botanic garden is particularly suitable for hardy plants from the world's cooler, drier areas. Dawyck is also renowned for its high diversity of fungi and crytogamics.


Logan, Scotland's most exotic garden, has an almost sub-tropical climate, and provides ideal growing conditions for southern hemisphere plants.


See also


  1. ^ Timeline from official RBGE site for this section.

External links

Coordinates: 55°57′56.17″N 3°12′23.98″W / 55.9656028°N 3.2066611°W / 55.9656028; -3.2066611



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