The second and third – University of Copenhagen

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Botanical Garden > About the Botanical Garden > History of the Botanic Garden > The second and third

The second and third Botanic Garden

Copenhagen University's second botanical garden, Oeder's Garden, was originally laid out by G. C. Oeder in 1752 north of Frederik's Hospital at the request of Frederik V. Amaliegade divided the garden into two parts, a western part that measured 0.41 hectares, and an unused eastern part that measured 0.91 hectares. The western part, though never completed, was equipped with a greenhouse and opened to the public in 1763. The German-born Oeder became the Botanical Garden's first director. In order to emphasise its economic significance, he began work on what was to become 'Flora Danica', an illustrated work describing all Danish and Norwegian plants. The garden did not last long, however; the King repurchased it in 1778 and donated a new tract of land for a botanical garden near Charlottenborg. Plans for Copenhagen University's third botanical garden, Charlottenborg Garden, received royal approval on 22 July 1778. The new garden was to have two directors, one chosen by the University and one chosen by the King. The first University appointment to this post was C. F. Rottböll and the first royal appointment was Thomas Holmskjold.

The garden's constitution was altered in 1817, such that authority was vested in a single director, the first such person being J. W. Hornemann. The garden encompassed at this time about 1.6 hectares in a low, waterlogged area that was bordered by Charlottenborg, Nyhavn, Mynten and Bremerholm. A main building was erected facing Nyhavn, the north wing of which housed the Botanical Museum and the working residence of the director and botanical gardener. The top storey of the building's centre section contained the Botanical Garden library. This collection developed into what later became known as the Main Botanical Library. The south wing was used to house the 'Cape plants' in winter. The garden's first greenhouse, Guiones Koldhus (Guione's coolhouse), was erected in 1784. A royal donation led to the construction in 1803 of a lean-to greenhouse divided into two 96 sq. metre sections. The construction of several more greenhouses was started in 1837 and continued for some years thereafter.

It was a widespread practice among European botanical gardens at this time to sell plants and seeds to supplement endowment income. Following encouragement from Professor F. Schouw, however, the garden was forbidden to engage in this practice in 1841. After this, wages were regulated according to permanent grants.

Several important milestones were passed during the period of Charlottenborg Garden's existence. In 1770, the first independent botanical posts, such as Botanical Gardener, were created, and in 1778 an associate professor was employed at the garden. The first person to enjoy this professorship was M. Vahl, who played a large part in moving the plants from Oeder's Garden to Charlottenborg Garden and later won distinction for his accounting of the garden's plant collections. With the creation of this post, the foundation was laid for the Office of Plant Taxonomy which has now functioned for over 200 years. Botany became an independent science in Denmark when E. N. Viborg was named Extraordinary Professor in Botany, 29 September 1797.

One more person from this period deserves mention: botanical gardener F. L. Holboell, who tended the garden from 1793 to 1829. It is from his hand that the oldest, handwritten books containing descriptions of the plant collection come. He was also responsible for the many catalogued envelopes of seeds that constitute the seed library he started shortly after his appointment.

The year 1839, which was Hornemann's last as director, saw the introduction of Endlicher's catalogue system (published 1837-40), which was based on a taxonomy of plant families. Plants were thus listed according to Endlicher's generic numbers. This system is today replaced by a computer registry.

J. F. Schouw's tenure as director of the Botanic Garden lasted from 1841 to 1852, during which time he made several significant changes including, for example, the practice of updating and reprinting the seed catalogues each year and the establishment of a new section of the garden devoted to Danish species, 570 in number.

By this time conditions in Charlottenborg Garden had become very cramped, and after 1842 it became increasingly apparent that a move to larger quarters was necessary.