Universiteit Leiden

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Hortus botanicus

Research (themes)

Besides the Hortus being a beautiful place where visitors can relax and learn more about plants, we also facilitate botanical research. Thousands of plants are cultivated for research purposes in our greenhouses. These include tropical orchids, ferns, the soursop family (Annonaceae), the dogbane family (Apocynaceae) and the pitcher plant family (Nepenthaceae and other carnivorous plants). For the living collections at the Hortus greenhouses, the focus is on (South East) Asian plants.

Discovering and understanding diversity

Maintaining a scientific collection like ours is of great importance, because it helps us discover and understand the biodiversity of a region. Moreover, we can bring evolutionary developments to light with the collection. Botanical gardens are the backbone of ex situ conservation (a Latin term for populations that are not located in their natural habitat) and plant diversity management. Our own researchers and their colleagues from all over the world are working on these plants in order to chart their diversity and to eventually construct an even better natural family tree. DNA investigations are being used, but other characteristics are being studied as well: both characteristics visible to the naked eye and microscopic characteristics. The green knowledge of our staff is also highly valuable to researchers: their practical observations and knowledge sometimes play a decisive role for the direction of the research.

Nature conservation

This research also leads to improved inventories and better advice about nature conservation. In the garden, the Hortus contributes to the cultivation of threatened plants of the Netherlands, in cooperation with other Dutch botanical gardens. The Hortus maintains the collection and the knowledge level of its staff by being involved with fieldwork when possible and by maintaining a large network.

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