Royal Botanical Gardens (Ontario)

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Royal Botanical Gardens
Royal Botanical Gardens Logo.svg
Abbreviation RBG
Type Organizations based in Canada with royal patronage
Legal status active
Purpose advocate and public voice, educator and network
Headquarters Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Region served
Burlington and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Official language
English, French

The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is headquartered in Burlington and also include lands in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It is one of the major tourist attractions between Niagara Falls and Toronto, as well as a significant local and regional horticultural, education, conservation, and scientific resource. On 31 July 2006, the Royal Botanical Gardens was selected as the National Focal Point for the Global strategy for plant conservation (GSPC) by Environment Canada.[1]

The 980 hectares (2,422 acres) of nature sanctuary owned by the Royal Botanical Gardens is considered the plant biodiversity hotspot for Canada, with a very high proportion of the wild plants of Canada in one area; is an Important Bird Area according to Bird Studies Canada;[2] and is part of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve.[3] More than 1,100 species of plants grow within its boundaries including the Bashful Bulrush (Trichophorum planifolium) which is found nowhere else in Canada, and the largest remaining population of Canada's most endangered tree, the Red Mulberry (Morus rubra). Both of these plants are listed as Endangered in Canada under the Species at Risk Act.[4][5] In 2008, the RBG was designated as an Important Amphibian and Reptile Area by CARCNET, the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network.


Howard and Lorrie Dunington-Grubb undertook the landscape design in a naturalist style that combined native and exotic species.[6] Initial sections of the RBG were built during the Great Depression in the 1930s as a make work project, under the impetus of Thomas McQuesten. It beautified derelict or undeveloped land in north Hamilton and west Burlington. For instance, a disused gravel pit was turned into the Rock Gardens, by using stone relocated from the Niagara Escarpment. The original vision of the RBG was a mixture of horticultural displays and protected natural forests and wetlands. Formal permission was obtained in 1930 from King George V to call the gardens the "Royal Botanical Gardens".[7]

The first Director of the RBG, Dr. Norman Radforth, was appointed in 1947 and was a Professor of Botany at nearby McMaster University. In the early 1950s, Dr. Leslie Laking was appointed as Director and served until the early 1980s. Under his guidance, the institution developed into the major entity it is today. With approximately 1,100 ha (2,700 acres) of property, the Royal Botanical Gardens is one of the largest such institutions in North America. In 2006, the Auxiliary of the RBG published Love, sweat and soil: a history of Royal Botanical Gardens from 1930 to 1981 authored by Dr. Laking.[8]


Funding for the institution was initially provided largely by the City of Hamilton and then in the 1940s by the Province of Ontario. By the early 1980s, funding restrictions and the desire to become increasingly self-supported led to charging of an admission fee for the cultivated garden areas. The extensive system of nature trails, more than 20 kilometres (12 mi) in length, has remained accessible for a small fee or seasonal membership. As of 2006, approximately 40% of the RBG's annual budget comes from support from the Province of Ontario, the City of Hamilton and the Region of Halton. The remainder, 60%, is classed as 'self-generated revenue' and is raised annually from admissions, memberships, donations, summer camps, and fees-for-service.[citation needed]

An organized volunteer group of more than 300 members called the RBG Auxiliary supports the efforts of the RBG. Annually, the Auxiliary raises tens of thousands of dollars and donates tens of thousands of hours in such roles as tour guides, staffing the RBG Library and RBG Archives, and some gardening[9]


Other attractions at the RBG include the Arboretum, the RBG Herbarium, the Nature Interpretive Centre (an outdoor education centre), Princess Point, a network of over 27 km of trails and outdoor floral arrangements. Some of the trails link to the Bruce Trail, and a building in the RBG Arboretum, Rasberry House,[10] is the headquarters of The Bruce Trail Conservancy.[11] Long standing RBG trails on the escarpment are part of the original founding of the Bruce trail. In 2010, the RBG partnered with Geotrail to bring their trail network to the internet through an interactive website.[12]

The natural lands or nature sanctuaries of the Royal Botanical Gardens include some of the most significant wildlife and native plant areas in Canada. The largest area, which includes the wetland called Cootes Paradise or Dundas Marsh, is a major spawning area for native fish species in Lake Ontario, one of the best bird-watching areas in Canada,[2] and is the subject of one of Canada's largest ecological rehabilitation efforts aimed at a wetland, 'Project Paradise.'

The Royal Botanical Gardens holds the second-largest garden show in Canada simply called The Ontario Garden Show. It comes second only to Canada Blooms which is held in Toronto.[citation needed]

Innovative educational programs are operated from both the RBG's main building in Burlington and the Nature Interpretive Centre, located in the Arboretum to the north of Cootes Paradise. Over 18,000 school children per year visit the organized school programs, and over 200 public education offerings include such diverse topics as botanical illustration, organic cooking and basic botany. Aldershot School offers an ECO Studies program in conjunction with the RBG.[13]

The Royal Botanical Gardens is a member of the American Public Gardens Association and Botanic Gardens Conservation International and is very active in local, regional, national, and international efforts to conserve plant diversity and ensure its sustainable use.

The Gardens span Bayview Junction, hosting several popular locations for railfanning.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Botanical Garden named National Focal Point for Plant Conservation". Botanic Gardens Conservation International. 2006-08-02. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  2. ^ a b "Dundas Valley and Dundas Marsh - Dundas, Ontario". Bird Studies Canada. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  3. ^ "Biosphere Reserve Information - Canada - Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve". MAB Biosphere Reserves Directory. UNESCO. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  4. ^ "Species Profile - Bashful Bulrush". Species at Risk Public Registry. Environment Canada. 2008-04-25. 
  5. ^ "Species Profile - Red Mulberry". Species at Risk Public Registry. Environment Canada. 2008-04-25. 
  6. ^ Riley, John L. (2013-10-01). The Once and Future Great Lakes Country: An Ecological History. MQUP. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-7735-8982-7. Retrieved 2014-07-07. 
  7. ^ "Gardens' History". Royal Botanical Gardens. Archived from the original on April 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  8. ^ Laking, Leslie (2006). Love, sweat and soil: a history of Royal Botanical Gardens from 1930 to 1981. Hamilton, ON: Royal Botanical Gardens Auxiliary. ISBN 978-0-9691759-4-0. OCLC 64344711. 
  9. ^ "RBG Auxiliary Volunteer Opportunities and Information Page". The Royal Botanical Gardens. Retrieved 2015-06-14. 
  10. ^ Rasberry [sic], not Raspberry, is the family name. [1]
  11. ^ "Contact Us". The Bruce Trail Conservancy. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  12. ^ InsideHalton Article: RBG hikers, bird watchers benefit from trail software
  13. ^ "RBG ECO Studies". Aldershot School. Retrieved 2009-05-03. [dead link]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°17′28″N 79°52′33″W / 43.29111°N 79.87583°W / 43.29111; -79.87583