Old Botanical Garden, Zürich

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File:Zürich - Bollwerk zur Katz - Alter Botanischer Garten Zürich.jpg
Zürich and Lake Zürich as seen from zur Katz bastion (19th century)

The Old Botanical Garden (German: Alter Botanischer Garten) is a botanical garden and arboretum in the Swiss city of Zurich. They are located on the former zur Katz bastion in the city centre near the Sihlporte. Opening times are daily from April to September 7:00–19.00 (7 pm), October to March 8:00–18:00 (6 pm).<ref name="uni_zh">Template:Cite web</ref> Trams 2 and 9 stop at the nearby Sihlstrasse stop.

Although the Old Botanical Garden is owned by the University of Zurich, it should not be mistaken for the Botanical Garden of the University of Zurich, opened in 1977 and located at Zollikerstrasse in the Weinegg quarter of the city.


The origins of the first botanical garden lie in Conrad Gessner's (* 1516, † 1565) private herbarium. A Gessner descendant, physician and naturalist Johannes Gessner (* 1709, † 1790), founded Zurich's first botanical garden in 1746, in co-operation with the Naturforschende Gesellschaft Zürich (Zurich Botanical Society).

In 1833, the Canton of Zurich changed this first location to the so-called Schimmelgut, as the University of Zurich was founded. On dissolution of the ramparts «zur Katz», in 1837, the still existing plant at Schanzengraben moat was built. The garden was designed by the University's gardener Leopold Karl Theodor Fröbel (* 1810, † 1907). In 1851, its Palmhaus (a greenhouse) was opened – constructed of glass and wood, in 1877, the octagonal glass pavilion has an iron frame. Today, the pavilion is primarily used for concerts, theater and exhibitions.<ref name="uni_zh"/>

The terrain of the garden was limited by surrounding buildings, whilst the shadows of these buildings hindered growth conditions for the plants. Thus in second half of the 20th century, an urgently needed expansion was impossible, and as the botanical buildings were in poor condition, the administration decided to move the gardens from the city center to a more peripheral location within the city, where there was room to expand. In 1971, the old park of the Bodmer-Abegg family in the Weinegg quarter was selected, and in 1976, the new botanical garden was opened there.

Since 1976 the Old Botanical Garden, as it is now known, has been used as a recreation area, as the location of the Völkerkundemuseum (ethnological museum) of the University of Zürich, and as the site of an arboretum and of the so-called Gessner-Garten.

Arboretum and Gesser-Garten

The arboretum is still remarkable, as is the idyllic location on the Schanzengraben moat in the midst of Zürich City, and therefore the garden is a popular recreation area.

Gessner-Garten on the hilltop, a medieval herb garden, is a memorial to Conrad Gessner. The southern gun bastion of the Fortifications of Zürich was at the highest point of the former ramparts zur Katz. The guns at the fortification were called Katz. Opened on May 27, 1997, the garden was built by private horticultural companies and financed by the Pro Katz foundation, with the object of maintaining the botanical garden. At the northern end of the herb garden, we find the Conrad Gessner memorial.

The Gessner garden shows 50 medicinal plants (herbs and shrubs), used by 16th century's healers, each with a citation of a healer from that period, such as Cynara cardunculus, Potentilla erecta, Linum usitatissimum, Paeonia officinalis, Silybum marianum, Juniperus communis, Fragaria vesca, Artemisia absinthium and more. The garden features herbs, which for centuries have been healing illness or having beneficial effects in infirmity. The signs by the plants give us an insight into the medicinal knowledge of Conrad Gessner and his contemporaries, such as Hieronymus Bock (* 1498, † 1554) and Leon Hart Fuchs (* 1501, † 1566).



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