Botanic Gardens fulfil many different purposes. Their roles have changed, developed and expanded over time. However at their heart, ‘Botanic gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purpose of scientific research, conservation, display and eduction,’ according to Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
Botanic Gardens are living museums with collections of plants – including flowers, shrubs and trees. As a university Botanic Garden, Cambridge University Botanic Garden has always had education and research at its core – from Apple Days to Zingiber spectabile. The Garden provides plant specimens and seeds for experimentation purposes. Its experimental research area, glasshouses and Plant Growth facility are used by researchers in the Department of Plant Sciences and other university departments. Annual teaching field-trips allow university students to learn about different ecosystems and habitats in the wild.
The Garden is actively involved in national and international networks focusing on plant science, conservation, biodiversity and other concerns. Each year members of the Botanic Garden staff visit other botanic institutions, both in the UK and overseas, to exchange ideas as well as seeds and plants. For example, the new giant Santa Cruz waterlily (Victoria cruziana) in the Tropical Wetlands display, was exchanged with the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. These giant waterlilies originate from Paraguay and grow lilypads up to 1.5 metres in diameter.