Berlin Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum

The Berlin Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum (German: Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin) is a botanical garden in the Lichterfelde locality of the borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Berlin, Germany. Constructed between 1897 and 1910 under the guidance of architect Adolf Engler, it has an area of 43 hectares [ha] (106 acres) and around 22,000 different plant species. The garden is part of the Free University of Berlin.

Berlin Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum
Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin
Logo of the Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin
Coordinates52°27′18″N 13°18′13″E
FounderAdolf Engler
CEOThomas Borsch (2008–)

The most well-known part of the garden is the Great Pavilion (Großes Tropenhaus), and among its many tropical plants, it hosts giant bamboo. The garden complex consists of several buildings, including glass-houses with a total area of 6,000 square metres [m2] (64,583 sq ft). These include the glass Cactus Pavilion and the glass Pavilion Victoria; the latter features a collection of orchids, carnivorous plants and the giant white water lily Victoria amazonica (Victoria-Seerosen). The open-air areas are sorted by geographical origin and encompass about 13 ha (32 acres). The arboretum is about 14 ha (35 acres).

The Botanical Museum (Botanisches Museum), the Herbarium Berolinense (B) and a large scientific library are attached to the garden. The Herbarium Berolinense is the largest in Germany and holds more than 3.5 million preserved specimens.


The Berlin Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum is a botanical garden in the German capital city of Berlin, with an area of 43 hectares [ha] (106 acres) and around 22,000 different plant species. It was constructed between 1897 and 1910 under the guidance of architect Adolf Engler in order to present exotic plants returned from German colonies.[1]

Footbridge over a pond in the Berlin Botanic Garden

The garden is located in the Lichterfelde locality of the borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf. When it was founded, a part of it was located in Dahlem, a fact reflected in its name. Today, the garden is part of the Free University of Berlin. The Botanical Museum (Botanisches Museum), together with the Herbarium Berolinense (B) and a large scientific library, is attached to the garden. The Herbarium Berolinense is the largest herbarium in Germany and holds more than 3.5 million preserved specimens.[2]

The complex consists of several buildings and glass-houses, such as the Cactus Pavilion and the Pavilion Victoria, which features a collection of orchids, carnivorous plants and the giant white water lily Victoria amazonica (Victoria-Seerosen). The glass-houses encompass an area of 6,000 square metres [m2] (64,583 sq ft). The garden's open-air areas consist of 13 ha (32 acres) sorted by geographical origin, and the arboretum area totals 14 ha (35 acres).

Cactus Pavilion

The best-known part of the garden is the Great Pavilion (Großes Tropenhaus). The temperature inside is maintained at 30 °C (86 °F) and air humidity is kept high. Among the many tropical plants it hosts giant bamboo.[3]


In the year 1573, during the time of Elector John George, the first noteworthy assembly of plants for the enlargement of the national collection was achieved under the leadership of the chief gardener at the kitchen garden of the Berlin City Palace, Desiderius Corbianus. Even if the expression "botanic garden" did not exist at that time, it was, in fact, the first such in Berlin. The existing Pleasure Garden has developed from this original one.

In 1679 at Potsdam Street, in the location of the present Kleistpark, a hops garden was laid out. It was used for the electoral brewery and as a fruit and kitchen garden. Carl Ludwig Willdenow made sure that the garden was assigned in 1809 to the Berlin Frederick William University. The garden developed worldwide into a recognised scientific botanic garden.

Pavilion Victoria showing the giant white water lily Victoria amazonica (Victoria-Seerosen)

Stimulus to move the garden occurred in 1888. There was a need to expand the plantings and set out an arboretum. Without a relocation, many of the old greenhouses would have needed to be reconstructed. Owing to the unfavourable urban and developmental impacts of the surroundings in the cities Berlin and Schöneberg, including air pollution and drawdown, there was harm to the plants. The financial aspects of a move to the city periphery were of importance, and it was not possible to expand the old kitchen and herbal garden in the city centre.

Grounds and plants


Adolf Engler designed the grounds of the gardens as a landscaped garden. The largest part of the grounds is covered by the geographical section 12.9 ha (31.9 acres) and the arboretum 13.9 ha (34.3 acres). The geographical section is situated just west of the main path and surrounds the Italienischer Garten (Italian garden), which lies just opposite the exhibition green houses. The aim was to present the various continents and habitats as close to their natural surroundings as possible. To accommodate this, the structure and composition of the ground was adapted and 136,000 cubic metres [m3] (4,802,795 cu ft) of earth were moved. The Karpfenpfuhl (carp pond), a pool of moraines that was already on the grounds before the creation of the botanical gardens, was enlarged and extended by a second pond. This facilitates the showcasing of waterside plants. The southern and western part of the gardens are taken up by the arboretum, a comprehensive and methodical collection of native plants. The arboretum borders the ponds. Therefore, native waterside plants are also part of the collection.

The northwestern area of the gardens at one time featured a section of plants which were methodically sorted by their affinity. This section was destroyed by air strikes, artillery fire and fighting on the ground in 1945. It has since been rebuilt in a modified version. It now houses a compound for the system of herbaceous plants and one for medical plants. This compound has been built in the form of the human body with the plants placed in the positions of their healing properties. It is the successor of the Apothekergarten (pharmacist's garden) which was situated further to the east, along with the economical section which presented useful plants. The Apothekergarten was especially important because it showcased all medical plants which grow outdoors.

Two morphological sections used to be situated east of the main path in the little free spaces between the buildings. Here, the water and marsh bed compound in Section II requires special mention. Two-hundred and sixty-two basins with water sprinkling and draining were built from cement concrete. A large water basin was heated for the tropical marsh flora. The entire compound still exists but has been left open after the since the installation of a bordering marsh and water plants garden. The old compound is now becoming a conservation area for native wild plants and a biotope.


Through the years, numerous pieces of art have been placed in the gardens, especially in the Italienischer Schmuckgarten (Italian Decorative Garden):

  • Irma Langhinrichs: Geteilte Form (1975), erected 1988, on the main path near the entrance Königin-Luise-Platz
  • Makoto Fujiwara: Brunnenplastik (1987) in the Wassergarten (water gardens)
  • Irma Langhinrichs: Zellkörper (1964) in the water basin of the Italienischer Garten (Italian Garden)
  • Constantin Starck: Flötenspieler und Mädchen mit Oleanderzweig (1928) in the Italienischer Garten (Italian Garden), reconstructed 1991–1992
  • Arthur Lewin-Funcke: Hingebung (1916) in the Italienischer Garten (Italian Garden)
  • Memorial for Christian Konrad Sprengel (1916)
  • Hermann Joachim Pagels: Sämann (1920s), near the entrance Unter den Eichen
  • Fritz Klimsch: Junges Mädchen, between the Systematische Abteilung (systematic section) and Arzneipflanzenabteilung (medical plants section)



Giant bamboo in the Great Pavilion

Numerous outdoor installations offer the possibility to relax, study literature, or search for protection against the rain. Alfred Koerner proved his comprehensive skills by matching the constructions to diverse styles as well as the botanical surroundings. Parts of these pavilions are connected to ornamental elements.

A Japanese arbour is situated in the centre of an ornamental garden named "Japanese Love", within the sector which represent the flora and fauna of East Asia.

The Arbour of Roses is situated in the centre of the arboretum. In this case Koerner built a semi–circular building from basalt lava. Its style can be described as Romanesque. It is surrounded by wild roses which overgrow the arbour. These roses show their blossoms in front of the dark building. Nowadays an open hall which is suitable for lectures is situated in the systematic section within widely spread meadows. Engler and his students used to go there to hold lectures.

Water facilities

Fresh water is supplied by two 50 metres [m] (164 ft) deep fountains. To deliver the water, vapour pumps were added and supplied with heat by the heating station. The water was pumped directly to the mains system of the garden as well as to the 550 m3 (19,423 cu ft) large water tower located behind the conservatories. The pumping system was designed for a daily output of 1,000 m3 (35,315 cu ft) of water. The technology was updated to make the pumps operated by electricity. The deep well still ensures the water supply networks.

Heating facilities

Special requirements were placed on the heating facility because of the variety of plants requiring different growing conditions. Continuous operation during night and summer was required for cultivation, so an independent heating facility with three warm water kettles and a boiler was built in the Botanical Garden.

The heating facilities had to meet the following challenges:

  • provision of the heating systems with hot water steam and low pressure steam;
  • supply of the greenhouses with water vapour for air humidification and tropical mist;
  • supply of the nursery with warm water; and
  • supply of the pumping station, the rainwater pressure pipe, the electrical lighting and the electrical working machines with energy.

Until the decommissioning of the plant, it had been run with approximately 1,500 metric tons (1,500 long tons; 1,700 short tons) of coal a year. The Botanical Garden was connected to the network of the district heating plant Steglitz on 13 September 1967. Since then it has been the main source for heating energy for the Botanical Garden. Annual energy consumption levels amount to 8,580 gigacalories (Gcal), the equivalent of 9,970,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), from which a third is used for the Great Pavilion. Its renovation has reduced the energy consumption levels significantly, and when complete, energy consumption levels will be reduced by one-fifth.


The construction of a bunker about 10 m (33 ft) below the Fichtenberg began in 1943. Access was through two entrances from the courtyard of the Botanical Garden. It was built for the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office which was located about 500 m (1,640 ft) away in 126–135 Unter den Eichen. The bunker was used for storage of the file inventory and to protect staff during alerts. It was of an unusual layout and construction with only a few rooms and several long tunnels. There was a tunnel shield at the end of one tunnel that remained after construction of the bunker ended in 1944. After the end of World War II, the entrances to the bunker were blown up. Some of the corridors also had collapsed by then. Today, the construction serves as winter quarters for bats.

Museum and herbarium

Between 1819 and 1838 the explorer, botanist and poet Adalbert von Chamisso worked as a curator of the herbarium. In 1879 the herbarium in the old botanical garden gained its own building and was able to present its collectors' items to the public. A year later a botanical teaching exhibition was introduced. This was the prequel to the Botanical Museum.

After its relocation in 1907 to Dahlem the museum gained a considerably bigger exhibition space on three floors. These were used for expanding exhibitions about geobotany and paleobotany. The rebuilding began in 1957 after the destruction of buildings and many exhibits. At this time the museum had a surface area of only one floor. After the relocation of the herbarium and the library to the new east wing, the museum could be expanded. On 11 March 1991, the second floor was introduced. In 2004–2005 the first floor was reworked and redesigned. Now the museum is seen as an addition to the garden and presents botanic topics that are not in the garden, including the historical progress, the progress within a year, inner plant structures, enlarged micro-structures, spreading of species, plant products and the use of plants.


From the access at the Königin-Luise-Platz there is a small cemetery to the left of the greenhouse complex where Friedrich Althoff, who died in 1908, was entombed. When Althoff was university tutor, he promoted the development of the university location of Dahlem and was buried in the Botanical Garden at his own request. The tomb of Althoff was created in 1911 by Hans Krückeberg. It has a resemblance to a classical sarcophagus including a dolorous female figure base in marble. This figure symbolises science in mourning.

Also buried in the cemetery was African explorer and curator of the Botanical Garden Georg Schweinfurth who died in 1925. The third tomb belongs to Adolf Engler (died 1930) and his wife Marie (died 1943). Engler was the first director of the Botanical Garden.

Botanical Garden publications

The Botanical Garden together with the Botanical Museum publish two scientific journals: Willdenowia and Englera.[4] In addition, Index Seminum and publications on the current operations and exposure of these facilities are published.[5] In the nineteenth century Jahrbuch des Königlichen Botanischen Gartens und des Botanischen Museums zu Berlin [Yearbook of the Royal Botanical Garden and the Botanical Museum in Berlin] was also published.[6]


  1. Kaiser, Katja (26 April 2022). "Duplicate networks: the Berlin botanical institutions as a 'clearing house' for colonial plant material, 1891–1920". The British Journal for the History of Science. Cambridge University Press: 1–18. doi:10.1017/S0007087422000139.
  2. "Herbarium Berolinense, Berlin (B)". GBIF. 14 April 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  3. Borgelt, Christiane; Jost, Regina (2004). Botanisches Museum & Gewächshäuser der Freien Universität Berlin [Botanical Museum & Greenhouses of the Free University of Berlin] (in German). Berlin: Stadtwandel Verlag. p. 32. ISBN 978-3-937123-10-3.
  4. Englera ISSN 0170-4818
  5. "Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin Publications – BGBM Press".
  6. IPNI (2022). "Jahrbuch des Königlichen Botanischen Gartens und des Botanischen Museums zu Berlin" [Yearbook of the Royal Botanical Garden and the Botanical Museum in Berlin]. Retrieved 22 November 2022. Vols. 1–5, 1881–1889.
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