A few Saturdays ago I was invited to tag along on a tree tour at the Botanical Garden in Erlangen. The tour was organized by the International Dendrology Society and the garden director invited me to participate and asked if I might help him with some of the more difficult vocabulary. I was nervous so I studied up a little, reminding myself of the German names for all the trees.
Once the tour got underway I realized that I had forgotten the most useful rule of nomenclature in horticulture and that is: we will refer to all plants by their latin names and in this way we will avoid any confusion or miscommunication that could occur at an international meeting. (It’s important to note that this doesn’t always work because plant nerds love to argue about nomenclature but at least it helps!)
I did a little research on the The International Dendrology Society before the event and found that one needs to be nominated to join the society. The garden director was nice enough to send me the attendees list ahead of time. It was interesting to see that one or two of the members from England had “Lady” or “Sir” written before their names. Being that it was a tree tour, I didn’t think it would be a fancy event, but I still worried that maybe I would be under dressed in the company of royalty. Luckily all was in order.
The group was jolly and full of interest and even more questions. They were quick to make corrections when necessary but they were on the whole so positive and thoroughly enjoyed the garden. I met more than a few very interesting people two of which knew one or two of my professors from graduate school. It is truly a small and often very enjoyable world.
It was a gorgeous morning, not too hot and full of sunshine. Botanical Gardens of all types really shine in weather like this.
Germans notoriously claim that their English is not very good. I am always glad to help but almost never need to help because their English is almost always better than they say it is. Still I felt honored to be included with this international bunch and was able to provide a bit of clarification when needed. Aside from that it was great to learn a little bit more about the botanical garden myself.
A little background: The botanical garden sits directly in the middle of Erlangen. It is nestled between the Castle park and the children’s theater. It is two hectares (approximately 5 acres) and it is a part of the University of Erlangen. It was opened in 1829 and depending on which part of the garden you are in plants are organized in different ways. One of the stand out aspects of this garden is the fact that while the garden is relatively small it has an enormous diversity of flora and species. Many climates are represented and every summer season they plant their entire cactus and tropical collection outside. It stands impressively near the entrance of the garden. Unfortunately I was so engrossed in admiring it that I forgot to take a picture.
They have a number of specialty plants including Hoodia gordonii. This plant has an interesting history and when the director introduced us to this plant, he also revealed one of the garden’s main purposes —to teach people about the many ways our lives our affected by plants, how plants are a part of our economy and part of our medical industry.
The botanical garden has two problem trees of note, one large oak and one large poplar. They are both in decline as a result of the construction of a building in the 80’s or 90’s. It’s taken a good amount of time for the stress to take its toll, but it’s showing now. They are constantly trying to figure out how to mitigate the problems of the trees without allowing anyone to be injured. The director mentioned an idea close to my heart. He said something to the effect of–We are considering allowing this tree to continuing standing in its current position after it dies. He said that he believes many people have never seen a dead tree. We are so quick to remove trees when they are in decline that it seems like people are hardly aware that trees are living things. In the same way many people have no idea that a tree can actually die.
I love this idea, as I believe gardens are like museums-places where you can see things you can’t see anywhere else.
After the tour we spoke a little about the possibility of offering English tours on a regular basis with yours truly at the helm. Fingers crossed I’ll find some way of working at this garden sooner rather than later.
It’s a great little garden. Visit if you can!