250th Ann of the Foundation of Ajuda Botanical Garden


Portugal – Ajuda Botanical Garden, founded in 1768, was the rst botanical garden in Portugal and the fteenth in Europe. Created on the orders of the Marquis of Pombal during the reign of King Joseph, the gardens housed the Natural History Museum, the Physics O ce and the House of Drawing. Domingos Vandelli was charged with planning and overseeing work on what would become one of the most important scienti c institutions in Europe in the 18th century, and the rst and largest institution dedicated to the study of natural history in the country. It is said that the gardens were founded to educate Prince Joseph and Prince John, the sons of Princess Maria Francisca who would later become Queen Maria I. Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the King’s prime minister, sought to provide noble families with a modern education which would equip them with new knowledge and practical skills. Yet, in the words of Domingos Vandelli, “…given that Ajuda houses one of the richest Natural History Museums, a Botanical Garden and a Chemical Laboratory, it would be preferable that the public were able to enjoy these grandiose establishments, providing a course in Natural History and Chemistry Demonstrations, as currently nobody is perfecting their knowledge of Natural History in order to progress in Agriculture, Economy and discover new ways to enhance Trade, … and that there were su cient land not only for conducting the necessary experiments, but also to preserve the qualities of the plants there…”.

Years later, after retiring as Director of the Botanical Garden in Coimbra, Domingos Vandelli returned to Ajuda Botanical Garden and embarked upon a mission to acquire new plants, with up to 5,000 species featured in the garden at one point.

Among the most notable species in the garden are the Ficus macrophylla, due to the size of its crown and roots, the Shotia afra, whose decumbent branches are supported by an iron structure, and the til (Ocotea foetens) which alongside the old dragon tree (Dracaena draco subsp. caboverdeana) forms a group of the oldest trees in the garden. The dragon tree at Ajuda was already an adult specimen when it was transplanted in the Botanical Garden in 1768, suggesting that it is now around 400 years old. With a diameter of 23 metres, it has become one of the largest specimens in Portugal. In April 2006, part of the dragon tree fell down, and branches have continued to fall in recent years; nonetheless, the other part of the tree is thriving and it continues to be an imposing presence. The old dragon tree typi es the 250th anniversary of the garden, resisting the adverse e ects of time and the weather, seeking support to avoid collapse, and rising up once again when it was thought to be lost. The logo for Ajuda Botanical Garden depicts the dragon tree before it began to lose its branches.

The last restoration took place from 1994-1998, when the original design and architectural elements were restored; an aroma garden was also created during this time for the blind and physically disabled. The garden is currently a Technological Support Unit for the Higher Institute of Agronomy (ISA), which belongs to the University of Lisbon. This institution stores documented collections of living plants for scienti c research, conservation, educational and recreational purposes. It currently houses a seed bank and a botanical collection containing 1,576 items divided into plants grown in greenhouses and open-air species. The Association of Friends of Ajuda Botanical Garden has actively participated in preserving its legacy.

  • 07.05.2018
  • Atelier Pendão & Prior / Fernando Pendão
  • Offset
  • Stamp Size: 40 x 30,6mm, M/S Size: 125 x 95mm