Saigon Botanic Garden – The First Botanic Garden in Vietnam

Volume 2 Number 4 – December 1994

Nguyen Nghia Thin

Saigon Botanic Garden (SBG) was established in 1864 – the first botanic garden in Vietnam. This was the work of French Government in Vietnam, according to a Resolution of 23 March 1864 during the first years of occupation. Mr Germein was appointed to manage and establish the garden. An area of 12 ha. was chosen for the garden, situated a few hundred metres from the city. The ground was leveled and a plant nursery was started. In 1865, Louis Pierre, a herbarium curator from Calcutta Botanic Garden, India was appointed as Director of the Saigon Botanic Garden.

The original aim of the Garden was to grow a mixture of local and exotic species which has been continued to the present day.

In 1877, Marine Correy was appointed Director of the Garden as M. L. Pierre returned to France. M. Corroy published a list of plants in cultivation in the Garden in Annales du Jardin Botanique et de la Ferm‚ exp‚rimentale des Mares 2nd fase Juillet 1878 br. in 4 p. 30-90. The same year, Karl Schroeder also published an article in which 902 species in the botanic garden were cited. In 1898 and 1905, two further lists were published by E. Haffner, a later Director of Garden.

On the 1st January 1919, SBG was affiliated to the Scientific Institute of Indochina (SII) headed by Xavier Salomon. Nguyen Duc Hiep was a specialist who was responsible for living plants and the herbarium. At that time the number of plant species grown was 1,500.

During the South Vietnam occupation by the Americans the Saigon Botanic Garden hardly changed and it became a place for relaxation.

Since 1975 there has been little investment in the garden and all scientific work has ceased. However, SBG is still a centre of plant conservation and conservation education in Ho Chi Minh city in particular and the South in general. Many species in SBG represent the flora of South Vietnam such as Dipterocarpus, Hopea, Shorea, Pentacme, Vattia and Sindora.

Botanic Gardens and the Sustainable Use of Plants

Number 2 – January 2004

Jamie O’ConnellPlants have a multitude of uses around the world, and there are too many examples of species that have been put at risk through excessive, or unsustainable harvesting practices.

Take the species Prunus africana, a large evergreen African tree, popularly known as “Pygeum”. The bark of this tree was traditionally powdered and drunk as a tea with wide-ranging medicinal benefits. Folkloric use in Africa attracted the attention of European researchers, and a patent was issued in 1966 for use of a pygeum bark extract in the treatment of prostate cancer. The resulting bark harvest, primarily taken from trees in the wild has had a devastating effect on populations of the species. Steps have now been taken to protect this tree but its recovery is far from complete and the plant is still considered critically endangered.

The importance of protecting plants from excessive and un-sustainable use has been recognised at the international level, and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation includes an agreed target that 30% of plant-based products should be derived from sources that are sustainably managed by 2010.

Botanic gardens have an important role to play in helping to achieve this target. Working with local communities, botanic gardens can help to reduce pressure on wild populations by bringing plants into cultivation and setting up nurseries to produce planting materials. They can provide opportunities for small-scale enterprises to develop income-generating projects based on the sustainable use of plants and they can educate the public about the importance of sustainable production and harvesting practices. Some examples of the work botanic gardens are doing in this area are provided below:

  • The Botanic Garden of the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, India has made a significant contribution to floriculture in India by producing new cultivars and standardising the technology for commercial cultivation of ornamental crops. For example, the technology of Gladiolus production has been passed on to 1,000 progressive farmers and entrepreneurs under a ‘Lab to Land’ programme for large-scale cultivation, in order to boost the cut-flower industry in India. As Gladiolus is cultivated in poor rural areas, it can improve the economic condition of the weaker sections of society.
  • A new garden has been developed in the Tam Dao National Park, Vietnam to address the critical issue of over-harvesting of medicinal plants, vegetables, fruits, fodder and timber by local people. Continual wild harvesting of medicinal plants for local primary health care needs and cutting of firewood for fuel for the homes in the surrounding villages has led to serious deforestation, which can also result in flash floods and mud slides in the wet season. The new garden is propagating and cultivating the most frequently used species, which will be distributed to local people to establish community gardens.
  • Cyclopia (Leguminosae) is an arid zone plant that has been used as a herbal tea for hundreds of years in South Africa (Honey Bush Tea). This is traditionally collected destructively from the wild. The National Botanical Institute, Kirstenbosch, South Africa discovered that smoke can stimulate the germination of many South African species, including Cyclopia, and so has been able to mass-propagate Cyclopia. There are now 40 communities in impoverished areas, where formerly there was no agricultural activity, that now have industrial-scale operations for the production of Honey Bush Tea.
  • The Center for Plant Conservation, U.S.A. undertook a study to determine the economic potential of rare U.S. plants. Of the 3,214 species listed as rare in the United States, more that 80% are used or have economically useful close relatives in the same genus. These taxa were estimated to be worth nearly $10 billion annually in wholesale farm values. The CPC work identifies action required for the protection of such genetic resources.
  • The Jardín Botánico Francisco Javier Clavijero, Xalapa, Mexico is working with local women to identify native plants with economic potential, as well as species that the women consider to be in a process of decline, and to promote their rescue and conservation. A sustained management module is being designed centered on organic cultivation. It aims to diversify the use of plants according to the traditional knowledge of the women of the rural communities south of the Cofre de Perote area of Veracruz. A permanent workshop has been set up for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and reflection amongst the participating women from some of the regional communities in this area.

These examples serve to illustrate the important and varied work being done by botanic gardens around the world as they strive to ensure the survival of plant genetic resources for the benefit of both present and future generations.


Prunus africana
This article appeared in Issue 2 of ‘Cultivate’ which had the theme of ‘Plant use‘.
The following articles also appeared in that issue:
Plants – How could we do without them?
Case study:
Tam Dao National Park, Vietnam
Featured Garden:
Nairobi Arboretum, Kenya


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