Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra
The Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra (Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra or simply Jardim Botânico) is a botanical garden in Coimbra, Portugal. It was founded in 1772-1774 and it was integrated in the Natural History Museum established by the Marquis of Pombal. The place for the Hortus Botanicus was chosen by the vice-chancellor of the University of Coimbra (Francisco de Lemos) and it was part of the farm of S. Bento's College, located at the Ursulinas Valley. Domingos Vandelli was the first supervisor for the orientation of the Garden, being followed in 1791 by Félix Avelar Brotero, professor of Botany and Agriculture. The area of the Garden, which has been enlarged, reaches the 13 hectares it occupies at present. The Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra, considered one of the most beautiful of Europe, can be divided in two parts.
The first part, located at the highest level of the Garden and at the top of the valley, constitutes the most formal area and it is divided in terraces. The lower terrace, known as the Quadrado Central (The Central Square) is the most primitive part of the garden and is decorated as other European Gardens of the 18th Century. In this terrace, adorned with a fountain from the 1940s, some trees planted during the time of Brotero can still be seen, such as: Cryptomeria japonica, Cunninghamia sinensis and Erythrina crista-galli. On the other terraces are:
a) The Order Beds, where plants, taxonomically grouped, are cultivated for the use of the students of Botany and for exchange with numerous similar institutions (Botanical Gardens and Institutes) all over the world (Index Seminum et Sporarum).
b) The Greenhouses, where tropical and sub-tropical plants develop under different conditions of temperature and humidity, according to their various needs, among which Victoria cruziana is one of the best known and admired.
The second part of the Garden, including the valley where once a small stream flowed, is the Arboretum, usually known as Mata of the Botanical Garden. Here we can observe, alongside with the Monocotyledoneae collection, a splendid forest of bamboos and a dense vegetation with exotic trees. The Arboretum holds an excellent collection of Eucalyptus, about 51 species.
The Department of Botany of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra (Instituto Botânico Dr. Júlio Henriques), from which the Garden is a component, comprises the Library, the Herbarium, the Museum and the Laboratories, dating from the period of Prof. Júlio Henriques direction (end of 19th century). The classes of Botany were first taken at the natural History Museum, but they were lately transferred, by Avelar Brotero's initiative, to a house built in the Garden for that purpose (Classe of Botany) and later demolished.
The Botanical Garden shelters several species of birds in their natural environment. The brown squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) has been part of the ecosystem since it was successfully introduced in June 1994. In fact, the six couples of squirrels which were the initial population seem to have adapted and have bred well, being now integral part of the environment.