The Jardim Botanico
Rio's Beautiful Botanical Gardens!
(19th Century Tree Hugger)
Rio de Janeiro's Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden) was created in 1808 by then Prince Regent Dom João VI (1767 - 1826), who later became the 17th King of Portugal. The garden officially opened in 1822, just a few years before Dom João's death.
The Portuguese royal family, having been chased out of Europe by that pesky Napoleon Bonaparte, fled to Brazil, and subsequently, fortified their military positions and seat of power in Rio de Janeiro.
Originally, the Jardim Botanico was designed to cultivate spices found in the West Indies. Plants and trees were brought here from all over the tropics.
One of these early plantings included a species of palm tree that grew quite tall. It became popularly known as the "Royal Palm" or "Imperial Palm", after it was planted by Dom João himself. The royal family had a monopoly on this palm species and regularly burned the fruit of the tree. However, enterprising slaves climbed the tree at night, cut down some of the fruit, and sold it on the black market. Soon the fruit of this single palm tree was spread all over Rio de Janeiro and to other parts of Brazil.
This very first Royal Palm lived over 140 years before being struck by lightning in 1972. Today the main avenue into the Botanical Garden is lined on each side with many of these towering Royal Palm trees, some reaching over 125 feet in height. Most of them are well over 100 years old.
Sexy Sea Goddess
There are a few statues and fountains placed throughout the garden, including Louis Savageau's 1862 rather sensual statue of the Greek sea goddess Thetis, and the wonderful "Fountain of the Muses".
The Jardim Botanico today is spread out over 1/2 square mile and is enclosed by stone walls, gates, and tall iron fencing. There are several fascinating and unique sections of the garden worth visiting.
Make sure that you visit the:
Japanese Gardens- here you will find Japanese Cherry Trees, huge Bamboo thickets, Bonsai, garden houses, and carp filled ponds connected by stone paths or wooden bridges.
Royal Palms - As mentioned, these majestic palm trees line the main avenue within the garden. Located at the end of the avenue is the lovely "Fountain of the Muses", which makes for a wonderful photo opportunity and resting spot on a hot tropical day.
Orchid House - Brazil has over 2000 species of orchids, and Rio's tropical climate promotes the year around blooming of many varieties at the tropical garden. Gardeners cultivate these delicate plants in rows of outdoor covered planters, later moving them inside the Orchid House to bloom. The Jardim Botanico has shared and promoted these orchids with many other gardens around the world.
Amazon Garden - Don't miss this fantastic section of the Botanical Garden, with its examples of many species of native plants and trees found in the Amazon. These include the large Vitoria Regia water lilies which cover entire ponds and the bizarre "Pau Mulato" tree with it's black rubbery bark.
Visitor & Travel Information
The best time to visit is in the morning before it gets too hot. It tends to get a bit steamy here, and bug repellent is recommended, although we have visited in the middle of summer and did not notice any mosquitoes.
The Botanical Garden is open 7 days a week from 8am - 5pm. Entrance fee is only $R 5 per person. Kids under 7 years of age and adults older than 60 are admitted for free. It's located in the neighborhood of the same name, on the west side of the Lagoa. Address: Rua Jardim Botanico 920; Tel (21) 3874-1808. It's a short cab ride from Copacabana or Ipanema, and any city bus with a "Jardim Botanico" placard will get you there.
Insider's Tip - After spending the morning or afternoon here, exit the garden and walk a short way to have lunch or an early dinner at the Por Kilo restaurant, Couve Flor. It's located in an interesting older residential neighborhood next to the Botanical Garden. Also on the same block, is the well regarded restaurant "Da Graça". After lunch, stroll through the quiet tree lined streets to admire the older houses (see photos at bottom).
Enjoy the Photos of Jardim Botanico!
The ancient gate entrance
The Royal Palm Trees
Fountain of the Muses
Photo Courtesy of Danilo Schinke
Replica of an Amazon fisherman's thatched hut
Lily pad ponds
Vitoria Regia lily pads
The very bizarre Pau Mulato tree
Some sort of Heron (we think...)
Nearby Colonial era neighborhood streets
"Dogs Playing Poker" ....old dudes playing cards.
Rio de Janeiro Map for Jardim Botanico
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