The first botanic garden in Warsaw was set up in 1811 near the university in the old town. It was moved in 1818 to the so called Royal Garden where it occupied a space of 22.5 ha and was officially opened in 1825. The Garden developed very rapidly (in 1824 it already had 10,000 species) until 1834 when the Russian administration took two thirds of the area. The Garden revived in the years between the two world wars, when Poland regained its independence but during World War II (1939-45) all the buildings (greenhouses and observatory) were destroyed, as well as a major part of the collection. However, due to the devotion of its pre-war director, Boleslaw Hryniewiecki the Garden was restored.
Many innovations have been made under the present director, Hanna Werblan-Jakubiec (from 1987): renovations of buildings were made, paths were covered with gravel and some collections were greatly enriched or new collections were added (Polish woody cultivars, ecological groups, alpinarium, flower carpet).
The Warsaw University Botanic Garden is one of the oldest but also one of the smallest botanic gardens in Poland. On the very small area of approximately 5 ha over 5000 species and varieties of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are grown. These plant collections are divided into 12 sections, e.g.: Ornamental plants, Plant systematics, Medicinal plants.
The Garden is located in central Poland, in the North-European Lowland. Its climate is milder than in other parts of central Poland due to its location in the heart of a large city. The mean temperature in July is 19øC and in January -3øC.
The present area of the Garden is 5 ha, within which the park constitutes 4 ha and 1,500 m_ is occupied by the greenhouses. The Garden is open to the public from April until October.
The Garden is on a high terrace above the Wisla river, so that in spite of its lowland location it has a very interesting relief. The area of the Garden may be divided into two parts: the western side which is flat and divided into regular quarters for single species or ornamental flowerbeds with single trees, and the eastern side which has the character of a landscape park with denser tree cover and more irregular arrangement of herbaceous plants and shrubs.
The woody species collection contains about 1,500 species. The oldest specimens, dating back to the beginning of the 19th century, are Sophora japonica, Acer campestre, Pinus nigra, Carpinus betulus, Fagus sylvatica 'Miltoniensis' and 'Atropunicea' and female Ginkgo biloba. Large specimens of Larix sibirica, Cornus mas, Juniperus virginiana and Paulownia tomentosa are also worth mentioning. The pride of the Garden is a Metasequoia glyptostroboides obtained from the seeds collected soon after its discovery in the 1940s.
The extreme western part of the Garden is occupied by the systematics collection arranged into regular rectangles of one species each. It is arranged in taxonomic order according to Engler's system. Smaller collections in this part of the Garden include collections of useful, medicinal and climbing plants, as well as collections of plants from various habitats of Poland: inland dune, seashore dune, steppe, saltmarsh, high mountains, marsh, peat-bog and water. The central part of the Garden is occupied by an avenue of Syringa vulgaris, a fountain, a rosarium and an aceretum. Further north there are collections of ornamental flowers and also the collection of lowland Polish flora, many of which are rare or endangered. All the protected species in the collection are labelled in red.
The greenhouses contain a general overview of the main taxonomic and ecological groups of the world, including palms, figs, cycads, cacti, epiphytes, etc. The greenhouses are available for guided tours only. One of the greenhouses which mainly contains tropical crops and fruits will soon be open to the general public.
A great achievement of the Garden is its efficient database of all garden plants, recently transferred to the Internet. The database was written especially for the Garden and is also in use in some other Polish gardens.