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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/186

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

BOTANIC GARDENS.
By D. T. MACDOUGAL,

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF BOTANY IN THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA.

I.—ORIGIN AND GENERAL ORGANIZATION.

THE term botanic garden is used to designate a limited area of ground on which is grown a collection of plants of a large number of species, arranged in a manner that will subserve some educational, æsthetic, scientific, or economic purpose. At the present time the utilitarian feature embraces the chief design of but few gardens, yet it is to the economic purpose that these institutions owe their origin. It will be interesting in this connection to note the successive changes of organization by which these institutions, at first as directly practical as possible, have come to subserve the most complex and highly scientific uses.

After the discovery of the medical properties of plants, it must have followed, in course of time, that representatives of the species to which remedial properties were attributed should be collected and grown in some place conveniently and readily accessible as need demanded. The last step did not immediately follow, however, since, among the conditions which were earlier supposed to influence the potency of medicinal herbs, the locality in which grown and the mysteries attending their collection were of the greatest importance. The first authentic record of the introduction of medicinal plants into cultivated plots of ground dates no further back than the time of the elder Pliny (23-79 a. d.), who writes of the garden of Antonius Castor, at Rome, in which were grown a large number of medicinal plants. This step may have been taken much earlier by the Greeks, Chinese, or Mexicans, however. Later the Benedictine monks of northern Italy paid great attention to the growing of remedial herbs, and devoted an important proportion of the monastery gardens to this purpose. This practice was also carried beyond the Alps, and in 1020 a garden was in existence at the monastery of St. Gall, in Switzerland, a few kilometres distant from Lake Constance, which contained sixteen plots occupied by medicinal plants. A garden of this character was founded in 1309, at Salerno, and another in Venice in 1330. In 1309 the Benedictine monks founded an academy called "Civitas Hippocratica" at Monte Cassino, in Campania, which appears to the writer to be among the earliest, if not the first, school of medicine, and established in connection with it a "physics garden." Two centuries later, courses of lectures on the "simples," as the unmixed preparations of herbs were termed, were given in the greater number of Italian universities, under