Calcutta Botanical Garden, Kolkata: Asia’s largest botanic garden and a nature-lover’s dream is the ‘Calcutta Botanic Garden’ also titled as ‘The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden’, ‘Indian Botanic Garden’ and ‘Royal Botanic Garden Calcutta’ located at Shibpur - the suburbs of Kolkata city of West Bengal State of India. Stretching across 22°33 33"N 88°17 18"E, the Calcutta Botanic Garden is situated on the Howrah side of River Hooghly and is about 12 kilometres west of Kolkata city centre. The Calcutta Botanic Garden is known for and is synonymous with the world-famous ‘Great Banyan Tree’.
Established in 1787 by Colonel Robert Kyd – a British Army Officer posted in India, Calcutta Botanic Garden was founded for the purpose of bio-diversity conservation and has been and continues to be a premier institution for botanical and horticultural research in India. The botanic garden is aligned to the Botanical Survey of India (institution of Indian Government set up in 1887 in order to survey the plant resources of India) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
The massive Garden sprawls over 273 acres of land, exhibiting more than 12,000 botanical specimens - the most popular one and the most visited one (attracting millions of visitors yearly) being – the 250 year old ‘Great Banyan Tree’. This Banyan Tree occupies 4 acres or 14,500 square metres of land with more than 3300 aerial roots reaching down to the ground giving the crown or the canopy of the tree a circumference of about 1 kilometre, with the highest branch rising upto 25 metres and the circumference of the main trunk being about 16 metres. The Great Banyan Tree has weathered 2 big cyclones (in 1884 & 1886) and a major lightening and continues to bear the appearance of a forest rather than a single tree, because of which, it is reckoned with as the biggest Banyan Tree in the world.
Calcutta Botanic Garden’s landscape of undulated land surfaces, artificial lakes and moats interconnected with underground pipes which receive and distribute water within the Garden from River Hooghly was designed in 1872, by Sir George King – British Botanist, the Superintendent of Calcutta Botanic Garden in 1871 and the first Director of Botanical Survey of India who was awarded the prestigious ‘Linnean Gold Medal’ by the Linnean Society of London for botany.
Calcutta Botanical Garden demonstrates best practice in sustainability of protection of unique and rare plants and the native environment as it has been in existence successfully carrying on explorations of newer territories in India and protecting unique plant specimen for centuries.
More than 12, 000 trees belonging to 1400 specimens along with thousands of herbaceous plants are being cultivated in the Garden in the open in 25 Divisions, Conservatories, Glass Houses and Green houses. The Garden is home to germ-plasm collection of Bamboos, Bougainvillea, Citrus, Jasmine, Pandanus, Water Lilies and has the richest collection of Palms (about 109 species) in whole of South East Asia apart from addition succulents, Hibiscus, Ficus, Aromatic plants, Gymno-sperms (in two Pinetums), Creepers, Ferns and a number of floricultural and arboricultural plants are grown in its Flower Garden, National Orchidarium, Student Garden. ‘Charak Udyan’ – the medicinal plant Garden houses a large collection of medicinal plants as well. Some of the most visited plants in this Garden are Branched Palm, Bread Fruit Tree, Double Coconut, Giant Water Lilies, Krishnabot, Mad tree, and the Shivalinga tree. A huge variety of Orchids and other colourful flowers are also In addition researches are also conducted on plant introduction, multiplication, horticultural aspects and conservation.
Apart from the research, development, educational, inspirational value purposes of this Garden, Calcutta Botanic Garden is an awesome place to get one with nature. The Garden is a source of energy for refreshment and pleasure – a green-hug experience! And its picturesque setting makes it an ideal locale for nature-photographers. This Garden is visited by scientists, photographers, academicians and curious-tourists through-out the year from all over India and abroad. The Garden also has a well-stocked Library comprising a vast and insightful collection of books on Botany.
Founder of the geographical botany; one of the greatest British botanists and explorers; and the Director of the 121-hectare of the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens – Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) reckoned that one of Calcutta Botanic Garden’s top achievements was the introduction of the tea-plant from China and attributes the establishment of the ‘Tea-trade’ in Himalaya and Assam entirely to the efforts of the Superintendents of Calcutta Botanic Garden and the Gardens of Seharunpore.