I have just returned from a lovely break in Lisbon, where we visited the national Botanic Garden, which is the oldest botanic garden in Portugal.What a lovely place! It is quietly set back from main roads so that you might miss it if you did not know that it was there, but it is quiet, except for the peacocks a-calling to their mates.Entry is very affordable. Maureen paid two euros and I as a "senior" paid only one.
I was struck by how well-maintained the garden is. It is technically an arboretum, a garden dedicated to trees, but the grassy space between the trees is well-trimmed and the gardening is clearly of professional standard. There are many box hedges whose trimming is exact. What impressed me is the dedication to proper labeling. When it is necessary to name a plant you have a plaque giving all the technical terms necessary to its identification :genus, species, subspecies, family, habitat
On entry you are struck by a fine avenue of trees that re native to Portuguese territories overseas. You see a Bhodi tree, the type of tree under which the Buddha sat as he received his enlightenment. It towers massively over you, tall and slender. There are colossal tree ferns that were extant when the dinosaurs ranged the earth. The avenue has a fine collection of palm trees of a wide range of species.
But the garden is rich in cycads. These look like palms, but they are different and are a primeval kind of tree older than palms. Found in Australasia they have cylindrical trunks and a palm-like rosette of leaves on top. They are one of the two relict orders of trees that have struggled to survive the dominance of gymnosperms and angiosperms, the others being Gnetales and Gingko. Their seeds are neuro-toxic and so should not be eaten.Their seeds are akin to the seeds of the gymnosperms, as unlike angiosperm seeds they are naked
The garden is in two layers, the upper garden being the old palace gardens of the Portuguese king. Some of the old place buildings remain. There is also the official residence of the president of the republic in thee garden grounds. Flowers are not the main element in the garden, but there is a long bed of agapanthus and bilbergia. There is a variety of shrubs, of which Wisteria springs to mind.
Altogether this is a very enjoyable place to visit and I certainly recommend it to anyone visiting Lisbon. It is in the area known as Belem, a lovely area with a number of cultural attractions easily accessible from Lisbon centre by tram or bus, which take you down the coast in a straight run where you alight near a massive, unmissable and beautiful ex-monastery.
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