Friday, January 6, 2017


Süleymaniye, Fatih - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°01'05.5"N 28°57'50.2"E / 41.018194, 28.963944

Botanical Garden / Suleymaniye, Fatih - Istanbul photo botanic_garden104.jpg


The İstanbul University Botanical Garden first opened in 1935, yet many people who were born and bred in İstanbul don’t know anything about this rich botanical treasure trove. The variety of plants found in this garden is breathtaking - pineapples, avocados, Lebanon cedars, coffee trees, cacao trees, crocuses native to Anatolia, scores of orchids and many specimens of banana trees.

Another interesting aspect of the İstanbul University Botanic Garden is the parrots you might see here. These are parrots were originally brought to İstanbul to be sold in 1998; they were loaded from a cargo plane onto a truck but escaped when the truck was in an accident. Ultimately, the parrots wound up successfully living and breeding in İstanbul, and now they come to the botanical garden every morning, mostly because foods they love grow on trees in these gardens.

And so we, too, decide to drop in on the parrots’ favorite stopover, to take in the incredible diversity in these gardens and see a range of plants and trees from around the world that live here under expertly maintained conditions.

The botanical garden was first created by Alfred Heilbronn (1885-1961) but is now run by Dr. Erdal Üzen, who has given his life over to the study and care of these plants and trees. There are 400 trees and bushes and around 3,500 different kinds of plants and herbs growing here, with approximately 2,500 plants growing in greenhouses. There are plants from all points of the globe, brought to this garden through careful cooperation with other universities.

Istanbul University’s Botanical Garden (also known as the Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, or AHBG) is the oldest and richest botanical garden in Turkey. Every year the garden and its greenhouses contribute to the education of more than 1000 undergraduate students of Biology, and interesting and rare samples from the plant world are shown to primary and secondary education students as well as visitors.

In the 1930s, Turkish educational institutions experienced something of a mass immigration of German academicians. Istanbul University became known as “the greatest and the best German university”. With students and voluntary translators helping to overcome the problem of language, this turned out to be hugely beneficial for Turkey in a number of ways.

Dr. Alfred Heilbronn had a special idea for the university shortly after he started lecturing. Having seen the beautiful botanical gardens of European universities, he immediately set to corresponding with Germany’s leading companies to provide high quality botanical equipment. A number of other German academics helped fund his initiative, as well as G.A. Catt (British) and Ahmet Atilla (Turkish), who were both curators with a prior interest in botany.

The AHBG was thus born in 1935. Heilbronn ensured that the botanical garden possessed the appropriate conditions. He worked on the garden plan drawings, the greenhouse project, and the garden’s heating and cooling systems.

There are Amazonian plants, special hyacinths from the Amazon that live in water, tropical bean trees and even some parasitic plants that live without soil. Though many of these plants would never be able to survive on their own in our country’s climate, here they are able to live and thrive in a warm, moist greenhouse atmosphere. Of course, there are some plants in the botanical garden which require a much colder setting.

There is one tree in particular that lives in the colder greenhouse that will pique the interest of anyone who has grown up in the shade of walnut, fir or juniper trees. The tree is called a sago palm, and its origins go back 380 million years. It bears fruit every 2.5 years, and it comes in female and male types. One of its most interesting characteristics is that is has distinct female or male organs when the plant is mature. Typically this kind of tree lives for 150 years, and that the female plants are particularly hard to breed. No need to explain that sago palms are extremely valuable!

There is another plant here that resembles a cactus, which is very poisonous. This plant has a milky substance stored inside that is so dangerous that a single drop could be lethal. Another notable resident of the botanical garden is aloe vera, which many women view as a beauty essential but which is not normally grown in Turkey.

Some of the plants that receive the most attention in the greenhouse are epiphytes, which need no soil to grow. These are plants that gain their nutrients from the moisture in the air and only need to find something on which to grow. Another object of extreme interest in this greenhouse is bean trees from the Amazon, whose beans measure about 50 centimeters each when fully grown. Of course, this is a tree which normally only grows in tropical climates. There are also pools present in these greenhouses where you can see a wide variety of tropical fish.

There is a wide variety of trees from different climes that are grown in the botanical garden. One of these is the Lebanon cedar. You can also see the black pine and American chestnut trees. The presence of these unusual trees is enough to attract many birds to this garden; in addition to the previously mentioned parrots, you can also see baby falcons and hawks here. And of course, the birds that come to enjoy the fruits and the branches of these trees not only add color and dimension to this garden, but also help with the pollination of these trees.

When entering the botanical garden, you will see a large tree to your left. This is a Ginkgo, also known as the maidenhair tree. Interestingly, this is a tree which in the Far East is traditionally found planted in cemeteries, as cypress trees are in Turkey. One of the lesser known characteristics of this tree is that its leaves are supposed to be quite beneficial for people suffering from Alzheimer’s or other mental disorders.

The people who have questions about the plants and trees they are growing in their homes can come to him with any kind of inquiry. There are lots of plants growing here which are about to disappear from Turkey altogether. There are some people who come to Turkey solely with the intention of taking samples of some of the plants and trees that grow here, and he advises the residents of Turkish villages and towns to be aware of this.

What people can do about this is to offer to sell samples of native Anatolian plants that they have grown themselves to those who are interested, but not allow the destruction or elimination of the country’s endemic plants and trees.

There are now 23 pools in the garden of various sizes, 15 of them are in the greenhouses, eight in a natural environment, and some of them are heated. There is also a rock garden. The garden covers an area of 15,000 m2 and is divided into six sections: Systematic division, Rock garden, Medicinal plants, Turkish plants, Experimental fields, and the Arboretum.

There are 400 woodland plants including trees and shrubs, 3500 herbal plant specimens from 160 families, and some endemic and rare plants for Turkish flora are located in the open fields. In the greenhouses there are also 2500 exotic specimens from different tropical regions of the world. In total, there are 6000 plant specimens, both native and exotic, from different taxonomical categories including Ferns, Gymnosperms and Angiosperms exhibited in the garden.

The garden is home to a number of rare and endangered plants. Botanical gardens in general have great importance for countries like Turkey. Turkey has a wide diversity of habitats and climatic conditions resulting from geological, topographical and continental characteristics of Anatolia as a meeting place of three different regions; the Euro-Siberian, Mediterranean, and Irano-Turanian.

However, this unique flora, including many areas that have yet to be surveyed, is under immense threat and declining fast. The threats facing the Turkish “Important Plant Areas” (IPAs) are diverse, ranging from agricultural reclamation, intensive forestry and industrial/urban development, as well as the collection of species for trade and the spread of invasive plant species in the environment. Overall, 94% of the IPAs are thought to be threatened to some extent by a potentially damaging activity.

Seed banks of many species listed in the Bern Convention Appendix I and “Red data book of Turkish plants” can be maintained and conserved in the AHBG (the garden trades seeds with approximately 400 foreign botanical gardens), in addition to the reproduction of some valuable floristic elements in tissue culture conditions including endemic, rare and endangered species.

The garden is open to the public. Approximately 10,000 visitors from come to the garden every year, including students, researchers and tourists. Even if a staff member is available to show you around, one of the faculty members will volunteer to do this.


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  1. I loved the post and as well i loved this city because there are many places to visit and als o a very good study environment. Had a great experience in Turkey university. study in turkey cost

  2. Its one of the best place in Turkey and i loved it too. Good to see this blog. Best immigration and student visa consultant