On the outskirts of Lund‘s historic heart, you will find the University‘s ever-expanding botanical garden—Botaniska trädgården, often referred to with the affectionate diminutive Botan—a must-see spot for all enthusiasts of plantlife. Botan is open to the public all year round from 0630 to 2130, but its role as a student hang-out on sunny spring and summer days has diminished in recent years, as its conservational role has grown. (Don’t worry, the students have plenty of room to sprawl in Stadsparken and elsewhere!)
Botan is increasingly home to plant species that have largely vanished from the world beyond its walls. During the 2010s the botanical garden moved from a traditional focus on diverse stocks—rooted, if you’ll excuse the pun, in the taxonomic studies of early sciences in the C19th—towards a proactive role in plant conservation. In 2015, a collaborative ex-situ project with local stakeholders was begun, with the aim of reversing the plight of the unique flora found around Skåne. To this end, a seed bank was established to collect critically endangered plants in the Scanian landscape that can no longer survive in their natural habitat. The plants are cultivated at Botan and put on display for the visitors so that knowledge about threats and necessary management can be spread to the public.
As you move from one garden “zone” to another, you will encounter a huge array of plant diversity that was once endemic to Skåne, from Misopates orontium (Kalvnos) in the west to Dianthus superbus (Praktnejlika) in the east, or Cotoneaster kullensis (Skånskt oxbär), which used to be found around Kullaberg and Höganäs and now has its own corner in Botan. The most promising species —such as Hypochaeris glabra (Åkerfibbla)—are re-introduced to local habitats for long-term conservation in wild environments; if you should stroll over the arched bridge, you might spot the Najas flexilis (Sjönajas) growing in the pond below, waiting to be re-planted in Kristianstad’s Hammarsjön. Having begun operations with a single greenhouse with nine climatic divisions, Botan now boasts nine greenhouses with a total of 80 divisions, some of which play host to vulnerable plants from all over the world, and lend a slightly tragic edge to the beauty and diversity of the place.
Keep an eye out for Lund University’s regenerative urban horticulturist, the pentalingual (and planta-lingual) Nassim Olsen, a specialist in seed-saving and assisted succession/migration who has been very active in establishing and nurturing new ecological niches in and around the City of Lund; some students go so far as to claim that Botan is Nassim’s dwelling, as well as their place of work! Nassim refuses to confirm or deny this claim, but they have plenty of other stories to delight any keen horticulturalist.
We wish it wasn’t necessary, but nonetheless we are obliged to point out that messing with the plants in Botan counts as criminal damage, as well as technically a disruption of ongoing state-funded scientific research—and that includes taking cuttings!
(And if you think Nassim’s too mild-mannered to be much of a threat, well, that’s exactly why Botan has its own flock of surveillance drones, cunningly disguised as rooks… and you don’t want to find out how they mark a suspected vandal for police attention.)