The world’s biggest botanical gardens embody the delicate balance between the natural and human-made world. These sensational spaces have a profound purpose, standing at the crossroads of art, science, and conservation. They offer scientists a valuable source of knowledge and serve as living laboratories, advancing our understanding of plant biology, ecology, and the effects of climate change. And they act as bastions of biodiversity, preserving endangered plant species that might otherwise disappear, often before we’ve fully grasped their potential.
An oasis of tranquillity amid the tumult of urban noise. A wonderfully pleasing assault on the senses. The largest botanical gardens in the world are rich with variety and vibrancy and they foster an appreciation for the astonishing complexity of our global flora.
Here are some of the largest botanical gardens on Earth. Each one, while varied in their geographical location and species composition, share a unified vision: the conservation, study, and celebration of plant life.
Orto Botanico di Padova
Location: Padua, Italy | Opened: 1545 | Size: 5.4 acres
Believed to be the world’s oldest academic botanical garden still in operation and in its original location, the Orto Botanico di Padova in northern Italy is one of the world’s most famous botanical gardens. Operated by the University of Padua, itself the fifth-oldest surviving university in the world, the garden is home to over 6,000 plants and is famous for its studies into medicinal plants.
Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg
Location: Munich, Germany | Opened: 1914 | Size: 52 acres
Located next to the stunning Baroque Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, the Munich-Nymphenburg Botanical Garden is involved in national and international research projects. The gardens collect, study, cultivate and exhibit around 20,000 plant species as well as more than 63,000 flower bulbs and plants. One of Europe’s biggest botanical gardens is also home to a world-class arboretum with trees from Europe, North America and Asia.
Adelaide Botanical Garden
Location: Adelaide, Australia | Opened: 1857 | Size: 130 acres
In the beating heart of the capital of South Australia, the Adelaide Botanical Garden isn’t the largest botanical garden in the world, but is one of the prettiest. The stunning Bicentennial Conservatory is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest single-span greenhouse and the Palm House, built in 1877, is an exquisite Victorian glasshouse home to one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Madagascan plants.
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | Opened: 1808 | Size: 130 acres
Known colloquially as the JBRJ, the initial brief of the Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro was to acclimate spices including vanilla, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon imported from the West Indies and elsewhere. Today, one of the world’s largest botanical gardens sits in the shadow of the world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer and is home to over 6,000 plant species including over 900 varieties of palm tree. The Jardim Botânico also has one of the world’s largest botanical libraries containing over 32,000 books.
Desert Botanical Garden
Location: Arizona, USA | Opened: 1939 | Size: 140 acres
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, where the summer temperatures can hit 40°C, is the perfect place for one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of agave and cacti. Of their permanent collection of more than 50,000 plants, there are around 4,000 agave plants and almost 14,000 cactus varieties. As a contender for the biggest botanical garden in the world, it has 96,000 specimens in its herbarium from all over the world.
Jardin Botanique de Montréal
Location: Montreal, Canada | Opened: 1931 | Size: 190 acres
The Montreal Botanic Garden is not only one of the world’s biggest botanical gardens, it’s one of the most important thanks to the diversity of its collections and themed areas. The gardens are full of some of the world’s most exotic fauna and the greenhouse and gardens collections include bonsai and penjing, ferns, orchids, an alpine garden, aquatic garden and an arboretum with over 6,000 specimens of trees and shrubs. At the entrance to the Rose Garden is the Feuillée Lion, a huge cast iron lion donated by the French city of Lyon on the 350th anniversary of Montreal in 1992.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Location: Tanglin, Singapore | Opened: 1859 | Size: 203 acres
Close to the world-famous Orchard Road, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of the largest botanical gardens on Earth and the only tropical garden listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The gardens, with around 4.5 million annual visitors, are home to over 10,000 species of flora. Themed areas include the Bonsai Garden, Ginger Garden and Fragrant Garden. The SBG is also home to the National Orchid Garden, with a collection of over 2,000 hybrids. One of the climbing orchids known as Miss Joaquim was chosen as Singapore’s national flower.
Location: London, UK | Opened: 1759 | Size: 300 acres
One of the largest botanical gardens in the world, as well as arguably the planet’s most famous botanical gardens, Kew is home to the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world. The Temperate House and Palm House are two of the most iconic buildings in London, and the gardens contain tens of thousands of plants, around 14,000 trees, close to 600 species of grass and seven million dried plants in the Herbarium. Kew Gardens also has one of the biggest botanic libraries in the world, with over 750,000 volumes and 175,000 drawings and prints of plants.
China National Botanical Garden
Location: Beijing, China | Opened: 1956 | Size: 988 acres
The China National Botanical Garden is believed to be the biggest botanical garden in the world. Much of the research undertaken there is centred on biodiversity conservation, gardening and horticultural technology, and the utilisation of plant resources. There are around 6,000 plant species including over 1,500 tropical and subtropical plants, 500 flower species, and 1,900 fruit trees and water plants. One of the most famous parts of the China National Botanical Garden is the 35,000 square metre Peony Grove and the stunning Orchid Garden.