Botanical Garden on the Island of Lokrum
The name of the island indicates that plants from different parts of the world have been grown here since ancient times (Latin: acrumen = sour fruit). The Benedictines planted the first useful gardens on this island in the 11th century. They also started to introduce some decorative species. In the mid-19th century, Maximilian of Habsburg started the paths and planned introduction of plants. The famous botanist Roberto Visiani visited Lokrum at that time and recorded more than 90 introduced genera.
The National Academy of Science and Art continued this tradition with the establishment of a Botanical Garden in 1959. The purpose of the garden was to investigate the introduction and adaptation of tropical and sub-tropical plants to our climate, especially those important for forestry, horticulture and pharmaceutical purposes. The plants were obtained from seed on an exchange basis with other botanical gardens around the world. Attention focused mostly on trees and shrubs from similar world climates, such as: central Chile, southern and eastern Australia, central and southern coastal California and the Cape of South Africa.
The layout of the garden was made by Dr. Sc. Bruno Šišić, an eminent landscape architect from Dubrovnik. The garden covers an area of 2 ha, near the port called Portoč. Besides the public area and greenhouse, experimental fields and an area with Mediterranean plant species were also established. During the war in 1991/92, the public area was directly struck by fifty projectiles, which damaged many plants and the infrastructure. Most of the library and documentation was destroyed by fire. Restoration of the garden commenced in 1993. Dr. Sc. Lav Rajevski was born in Izmail (Besarabia) in 1910. Since 1960, he worked as a senior scientist in the Biological Institute in Dubrovnik, with the aim of establishing a botanical garden on Lokrum Island, and researching the flora and vegetation of the southern Adriatic region. He continued his work until the war in the nineties, despite having retired in 1985. It should be mentioned that this garden represents his life's achievement (the result of his long-term enthusiastic work).
In the public area today (1 ha), there are around 500 species, mostly trees and shrubs, and approximately 200 succulents in the greenhouse. Many introduced plant species, which are not on display to the public, grow on the former experimental fields, which are now under reconstruction, following many years of neglect. Besides research into plant acclimatization, the education of visitors and children, and being a tourist attraction, there is also a possibility of growing local plants that are threatened in the wild. This will help to protect them in their natural habitat. Today, the garden is a part of the Institute for Marine and Coastal Research, University of Dubrovnik. It has one botanist and one part-time gardener. Although the garden is forty years old, it is still far from its final appearance.
In the public area of the botanical garden, plant species are grouped mainly according to the plant family, or, in some cases, according to the same conditions they require (for example: rockery).
Probably the most attractive part of the garden is the one with the succulents. Cacti (fam. Cactaceae), puyas (fam. Bromeliaceae) and agaves (fam. Agavaceae) are planted here, mostly of American origin.
Most plant species are labeled. Engraved slates show the scientific (Latin) name of species (besides the Croatian name, if it exists), the origin and name of the plant family. Other specimens of the same species, if there are any, are marked with smaller slates; with the name and number. Palms (fam. Arecaceae) give a tropical view to part of the garden. These are mostly of American origin, represented with the genera Butia, Erythea, Washingtonia, etc. Adult plants are not protected in winter. In summer, they need plenty of watering.
Eucalyptus (fam. Myrtaceae) are evergreen and fast-growing trees common to Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. Seven hundred species have been described.
They consist mostly of trees or shrubs of dry woods, often salt-resistant. In the 1980's, Australian experts estimated that the eucalyptus collection in this botanical garden (around 70 species) was the richest collection of these trees outside the Australian continent.