The Botanical Garden of Madeira, located in Funchal, boasts more than 2000 exotic plants from all over the world. It dates back to the 17th century the desire to provide Madeira with a Botanical Garden, an ambition that came to fruition in 1960.
The Botanical Garden, with an area of more than 35 000 m2, is endowed with more than 2000 exotic plants from all continents, with some botanical species in extinction. This fantastic garden consists of several ornamental trees and shrubs, an area with orchids, lawns, viewpoints and an amphitheater for recreational activities.
Given the growing loss of biodiversity and habitats worldwide, this garden has become a center of science and culture, with a view to the conservation of endangered plants that are as well adapted here as in their home environment.
Whether you are a nature lover or botanist, if you want to go around the world through the vegetable kingdom, visit a Natural History Museum and a Herbarium, then visit this garden that is located on the Middle Way in Funchal.
The Botanical Garden is located in Funchal, on a very old quinta (manor house) where improvements have been made over the years.
But it still has many original features.
The creation of the Madeira Botanical Garden was the fulfilment of an old aspiration dating back to the 18th century, given that the Island had suitable climate conditions for cultivating a large number of plant species, from those characteristic of tropical regions to those of cold regions.
Historical records state that João Francisco de Oliveira was the first to carefully study the creation of an establishment of this nature, having sent Dr. Domingos Vandelli, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens (Lisbon), in May 1798 a report entitled “Notes for establishing a plant nursery on the Island of Madeira and an Inspection of Agriculture on the same Island”.
Following the work of João Francisco de Oliveira, in 1799 a plant nursery was set up in the parish of Monte which, according to the authors of the “Elucidário Madeirense”, was extinguished in 1828 by the Miguel Government.
In the 19th century, some botanists and naturalists defended the creation of the garden, namely the naturalist J. R. Theodor Vogel, in May 1841, refers to the potential of Madeira as ideal for the installation of a Botanical Garden; the great Austrian botanist Frederico Welwitsch, in November 1852, enthusiastically supports the creation of an acclimatisation garden in Madeira given the peculiar climatic conditions of the Island; the naturalist Baron of Castello de Paiva, in July 1855, in a report delivered to Minister Fontes Pereira de Mello, mentions the importance of creating a “naturalisation garden for exotic plants” on the Island.
In the 20th century, many scientists and technicians linked to botany advocated the organisation of a Botanical Garden in Madeira and the interest in supporting the creation of such a space was expressed by people like Professors Rui Telles Palhinha, António Sousa da Câmara, J. Vieira Natividade and Américo Pires de Lima, Father Alphonse Luisier, Dr. Carlos Romariz and Agronomist A. R. Pinto da Silva.
Between 1946 and 1959, various documents were drawn up reinforcing the need to create a Botanical Garden in Madeira.
These documents, as well as one of the conclusions of the 1st Conference of the Nature Protection League, held in Funchal in 1950, constituted the basis of justification for the creation of the Madeira Botanical Garden (JBM).
The creation of the JBM took place with the acquisition, by the General Council of the Autonomous District of Funchal, of Quinta do Bom Sucesso (Quinta da Paz or Quinta Reid) in 1952, for two thousand escudos.
The Quinta was acquired by deed, dated September 18th, 1952, from Manuel Gomes da Silva, being located between Levada do Bom Sucesso and Caminho do Meio and Voltas, between 200 and 350 meters of altitude, having at the time, an area of little more than 10 hectares, with a residence house that had belonged to the Reid family, before 1936.
The Quinta was acquired with the intention of being used by the Agricultural Station Services and “with the objective of installing the headquarters of the Botanical Garden there”.
Later, between December 1952 and June 1953, other annexed land was acquired by the General Council of the Autonomous District of Funchal and incorporated into the botanical park.
From its creation until 1973, the JBM was an integral part of the Agricultural Station with its administrative support. In December 1973, a regulation of the Botanical Garden was approved at a meeting of the Junta Geral do Distrito Autónomo do Funchal (General Council of the Autonomous District of Funchal), in which it was granted the category of “independent” service directorate but with the obligation of “exercising its activity in close collaboration with the Agricultural Station whenever, in the performance of its functions, aspects related to district agriculture have to be considered”.
The alteration in the functioning of the Botanical Gardens occurred in 1979, with the publication of the Regional Regulatory Decree n. 8/79/M, of 29 May, which established the organic structure of the Regional Secretariat of Agriculture and Fisheries (SRAP), as it became a department of the Directorate of Agricultural Services of the same Secretariat.
In 1984, with the approval of the organic alteration of the SRAP, by the Regional Regulatory Decree no. 7/84/M, of 19 April, the JBM succeeded the Division of the Directorate of Agricultural Services, of the Regional Directorate of Agriculture, maintaining the competences which presided over the approval of its regulation in 1973, taking into account the reports of the Agronomist Engineer A. R. Pinto da Silva, of the National Agronomy Station and Dr. Pierre Dansereau, of the University of Montreal (Canada).
Among the competences defined, the following stand out Introduction and acclimatisation of useful plants, especially new cultivars; Selection, multiplication and distribution of plant species, varieties or cultivars of scientific, ornamental or economic interest; Exchange with other Botanic Gardens and Institutes, of seeds, seedlings and propagules of naturalised, cultivated or indigenous species of the Region and, also, of herborised material; Scientific research, mainly in the fields of Botany and, whenever possible, in collaboration with Institutes and other Portuguese and foreign Gardens; Popular education and tourism. Dissemination.
With the regulation of the organisation of that Regional Secretariat, carried out through the Regional Regulatory Decree no. 1/93/M, of 7 January, the Regional Forestry Directorate is created.
With the approval of the organisation of that Regional Directorate, by Regional Regulatory Decree n.º 7/93/M, of 27 March, the Botanical Garden became part of the Forestry and Natural Resources Services Directorate, which was responsible for promoting and developing scientific research in the fields of Botany, in collaboration with national and international entities that develop similar attributions.
With the publication of the Regional Regulatory Decree no. 11/2002/M, of 24 July, the Regional Directorate of Forests includes the Botanical Garden among its bodies and services, as a Service Directorate, with attributions in the areas of research, conservation of plant genetic resources and support for the creation and management of green spaces.
Its facilities were enriched with the installation of a laboratory in 1999, which was subsequently equipped and improved. The Seed Bank of the Madeira Botanical Garden was also created in 1994, directed towards collections of indigenous plants of Madeira (Madeira, Desertas, Selvagens, Porto Santo), with priority for endemisms and rare and endangered plants in Nature.
The arboretum is located in the northern part of the botanical garden. It consists of a collection of trees and shrubs from all over the world.
In the area next to the main house, the visitor will find an area with some tree, shrub and herbaceous species that make up the flora of Madeira.
The tree species of the Madeira Laurissilva stand out, such as the Beech (Myrica faya), the Lily of the Valley Tree (Clethra arborea), the Madeira Mahogany (Persea indica), the Madeira Laurel (Ocotea foetens) and the Bay Tree (Laurus novocanariensis) and also other endemic species of Madeira and Macaronesia that are rare or threatened with extinction, namely the Mocane (Pittosporum coriaceum), the Dragon Tree (Dracena draco), the Yellow Jasmine (Jasminum azoricum), the Madeira Geranium (Geranium maderense) and Cheirolophus massonianus among several others.
Of the exotic species to be found in the arboretum, the following should be mentioned in the tree stratum: Dombeias (Dombeya nyasica and Dombeya wallichii), various species of Magnolia, the Araucaria (Araucaria bidwilii and Araucaria heterophylla), Cedars (Cedrus macrocarpa), Sequoias (Sequoia semprevirens, Metasequoia sp. ), Eucalyptus ficifolia, the Date Pine (Agathis brownii) and also Ginkgo (Ginko biloba).
In the arboretum, under a dense cover of various tree species, there are numerous paths that wind through garden areas composed of mosaics of various species of herbaceous plants, as well as a small pond where visitors can relax to the sound of small birds singing.
In the upper-western part of the arboretum, overlooking the Ribeira de João Gomes, is a grotto known as “the lovers’ grotto”. From here visitors can enjoy a magnificent view over the city of Funchal.
The collection of succulent plants is located in the central-eastern part of the Garden, near the main house.
This collection is made up of plants that have morphological and physiological adaptations that allow them to survive in dry and/or desert environments.
Here visitors can observe the most diverse evolutionary strategies and adaptations of these curious plants.
The collection contains around 200 species from various families, in particular Cactaceae, Crassulaceae, Agavaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Asclepidaceae and Aizoaceae, among others.
Topiary, or ornamental pruning, consists of giving artistic forms to the plants by cutting them with pruning shears.
This practice, as well as choreographed gardens, where plants of different colours are used to create patterns and mosaics, aim to create pleasant and harmonious environments.
Its realisation requires great care in the choice of species and in the shaping process.
In the Madeira Botanical Garden, besides a topiary exhibition, where several shapes of animals and objects sculpted in bushes can be observed, the visitor can also see an area with choreographed gardens, where plants of different colours are conjugated and organised to create colourful mosaics.
In the area where the topiary exhibition is located, there is also a representation of the picturesque Santana house, a typical construction of the municipality of Santana on the island of Madeira.
These buildings are characterised by their triangular shape, the walls painted white, the doors red and the peripheries of the doors and windows blue, and the thatched roof, which was traditionally replaced every 5 years.
Although palm trees are found all over the world, they have their origin and preferential distribution in tropical and subtropical regions.
The cicas are plants with a similar appearance to palms.
Although they were especially abundant in the Jurassic period of the Mesozoic Era, there are currently few species, some of which are threatened with extinction.
At present, their natural distribution is restricted to a very limited number of tropical and subtropical regions.
These plants, due to their large, glossy leaves and their inflorescences in large cones, similar to pine cones and often with bright colours ranging from yellow to orange, have been much appreciated in garden decoration.
In 1997, in the southern section of the Garden, next to the amphitheatre, a collection of about 44 species of palms and cycads was created.
In the palms, the highlights are the specimens of Bismackia nobilis (silver palm), Lateria felti, Chambeyronia macrocarpa (governor palm) and several species of the Washingtonia genus. In the cicas, specimens of the genera Dioon, Encephalartos, Zamia and Macrozamia stand out.
The collection of Madeira endemic species aims to make the flora of the Madeira Archipelago known.
The collection includes specimens of various endemic taxa, some of which are rare and threatened with extinction.
For example, Jasminum azoricum, Cheirolophus massonianus, Chamaemeles coriacea, Pittosporum coriaceum and Prunus lusitanica subsp. hixa).
There are two areas in the garden dedicated to the flora of Madeira; one located in the arboretum area and the other in the southern section of the garden, next to the amphitheatre and the palm and cycads collection.
In the collection located in the arboretum, the tree species of the Madeira Laurissilva stand out, such as the Beech (Myrica faya), the Lily of the Valley Tree (Clethra arborea), the Madeira Mahogany (Persea indica), the Madeira Laurel (Ocotea foetens) and the Bay Tree (Laurus novocanariensis) and also other endemic species of Madeira and Macaronesia that are rare or threatened with extinction, namely the Mocane (Pittosporum coriaceum), the Dragon Tree (Dracena draco), the Jasmine Tree (Jasminum azoricum), the Madeira Geranium (Geranium maderense) and Cheirolophus massonianus among several others.
The collection located in the southern part of the Garden has the species organised to represent the various levels of vegetation of the
Madeira, from the coastal area to the island’s high mountains. In this area the rare species Berberis maderensis and Pittosporum coriaceum stand out.
Also noteworthy in this collection is an ex situ conservation area of Aichryson dumosum, a species endemic to Madeira and extremely rare in Nature.
In this space, the peculiar habitat of this species was recreated, which lives among piles of basalt rocks in only one location on the island of Madeira.
In 1874, the catholic priest and naturalist Ernest Schmitz, due to the increasing tension of the anti-clerical movements of the Kulturkampf in Germany, was forced to leave his country and settled in Madeira Island.
In Madeira between 1881 and 1898 he was chaplain at the Princesa Dona Maria Amelia Hospice and professor of natural sciences at the Diocesan Seminary of Funchal.
In September 1881 he was appointed vice-rector of the Diocesan Seminary of Funchal, a position he held until 1898 when he left for the Collegium Marianum in Theux, Belgium, where he worked until 1902.
In 1902 he returned to Funchal and resumed his functions as vice-rector of the Seminary, a position he held until 1908.
Interested in the fauna and flora of the island, during this period he founded a Natural History cabinet at the Seminary of Funchal, which would later become a Museum, currently the Museum of Natural History at the Seminary of Funchal.
The Museum, devoted to the natural resources of the Madeira and Selvagens archipelagos, stored and exhibited collections of rocks, corals, fossils, plants (vascular and avascular), lichens, taxidermied animals (resident and migratory birds, mammals, fish and reptiles) and others preserved in formalin.
In the following years collections of Bryophytes and Phanerogams, organised by the English naturalist James Yate Johnson, as well as collections of lichens and fungi, organised by Father Jaime de Gouveia Barreto, who replaced Father Ernesto Schmitz as curator of the Seminary Museum, were added to the Museum of Natural History of the Seminary.
In 1981, Father Manuel de Nóbrega, initiated the installation of the estate of the old Diocesan Museum of Funchal in 3 rooms of the main building of the Madeira Botanical Garden – Eng.º Rui Vieira.
This collection, owned by the Diocese of Funchal, was handed over to the custody of the Madeira Botanical Garden in 1982 and is now on display to the public.
Information taken from:
- Winter : Monday to Sunday: 09:00 – 18:00
- Summer: Monday to Sunday: 09:00 – 19:00
- Pause/Interruption: 25 December