COUNTRY: South Africa
AREA: Durban and Surrounds
Durban's 145 ha Botanical Gardens, established in 1849 on the eastern slope of the Berea Ridge as a site for growing experimental tropical crops is a proud example of 19th-century enterprise and enthusiasm.
The gardens are world famous for the original specimens of Encephalartos woodii, a cycad that is still acknowledged as probably the rarest plant in the world, as well as for its comprehensive collection of other Southern African cycad species.
The orchid house is named after Ernest Thorp, who builit it up to its position of world fame as the first "naturalistic" display house. It is at its best during the spring months and is open daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm. The car park is in Sydenham Road, and the gardens are easily accessible from the centre of town (a My- nah bus leaves from the Pine Street).
The charity tea garden offers teas and light refreshments from 9:30 am to 4:15 pm. There is also an information cen- tre. The Durban Botanical Gardens are open daily from 7:30 am to 5:15 pm. (16 April - 15 September) and from 7:30 am to 5:45 pm. (16 September - 15 April). Guided tours are offered every month and must be booked in advance. There is also a herb garden and a garden for the blind.
The Botanical Research Unit, incorporating the Natal Herbarium is at the corner of St. Thomas Road and Botanic Gardens Road. The major aims of the unit are the provision of an information service regarding identification of the indigenous flora of KwaZulu-Natal and continuing research into the flora of South Africa with the aim of compiling an authoritative study of its findings.
The Natal Herbarium contains an impressive collection of more than 100 000 specimens of dried pressed and catalogued plants - most of which originate in KwaZulu-Natal.
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