The University of Dundee Botanic Gardens

The garden was established in 1971 and covers an area of approximately 9 ha (22 acres) which is quite small for a Botanic Garden.

Despite its small size it includes a wide collection of indigenous British plants as well as collections of plants from all of the continents of the world, plus temperate glasshouses, a water, herb, and Mediterranean garden.

Although the gardens are open to the public, the principal use of the garden is to provide plant material for teaching, and research in the University.

To this end, and to emphasise the origins of plants, the garden is arranged geographically, so that one can walk through the world's temperate regions from the Mediterranean to East Asia.

For general information there are a number information placards dotted all over the garden to give the public a brief explanation of what they are viewing.

Alternatively; you can pick up a 'Mini Guide' at the visitors centre.

The British Native Plant area, has been planted in a manner to replicate a journey from the mountain tops down through a glen, then following a stream through moorland and many types of woodland to eventually reach the sea shore.

The Glasshouses in contrast, contain rainforest and desert subjects.

The Evolution Garden is built within a maze of dry stone dykes,and has been designed to show 1200 years of plant evolution from algae to angiosperms (flowering plants).


As with most gardens I visit I generally start by visiting the cafe to form a route plan over a cup of coffee, this trip was no different.

My plan this time was to tour the garden in an anti-clockwise direction.

On leaving the cafe I passed the Education centre and headed through the lower area of the arboretum towards the Australian and New Zealand area.

Enroute I passed the Bridge Sculpture,The Eddie Kemp Pavilion, the Pond and the Gazebo.


Bridge Sculpture


Eddie Kemp Pavilion


The Pond



This area of the arboretum consisted of numerous deciduous trees and Conifers indigenous to the UK.(click on picture to view more of the arboretum)

I passed a collection of Rhododendrons that was purchased in 1985 from a generous donation to the 'Friends of the University Botanic Gardens' by Mrs Joyce Brown (1916-1994) in memory of her husband Allen Brown (1916-1980) who was a frequent and appreciative visitor to the gardens.

Quite a number of trees were bearing fruit and cones as you can see here:


Sorbus bisseti


Sorbus hupebensis


Picea spinulosa

As mentioned above there were numerous data placards dotted over the garden, this is data from one I found in the arboretum:



Wollami Pine - Wollamiia nobilis

This species was around 90 million years ago and was believed to be extinct until it was found growing in Australia in 1994.

The Conifers or Pinophyta includes pines, firs, spruces, larches, junipers, cypresses and yews.

Seeds develop on scales, usually woody and organised into cones.

Male cones produce pollen which is carried by the wind to female cones when a pollen tube grows from the grain to effect fertilisation.

The earliest pinophyte fossils date from the Upper Carboniferous 310 million years ago.


The conifers were traditionally classified as Gymnosperms (naked-seeded plants) along with Ginkgoes, Cycads and Gnetophytes.

These four groups are often now treated as separate and equal divisions of the seed plants along with the flowering plants or Angiospermae.

Cycads and Gnetophytes can be seen in the Glasshouses


Japanese Umbrella Pine - Sciadopitys verticillata

Fossils have been found that date this species back to around 230 million years ago.

The attached picture is a seedling from my garden.


Australian & New Zealand Area

Following extensive works earlier this year (2010) as can be seen in the pictures below, the Australasian area of the Garden is now seeing a substantial ongoing programme of new plantings, particularly with the planting of the eucalypts.

This indigenous tree is known to have a fascinating relationship with fire, a regular hazard in the Australian bush country.

Phormium terax, a New Zealand flax is used by the Maori people to make baskets, nets, clothing and medicines, and can be seen in the southern part of this area.

The plant seems to prefer swampy ground but will grow almost anywhere.

Hebe, a low-growing small-leaved shrub similar to our heathers is native to New Zealand, and all but one of the known species can be found on these islands.





Tay Park House

This impressive house (now a hotel) stands on the edge of this part of the garden.

The house was once a former Baronial mansion house dating from circa 1863, and was originally built for Alexander Low, a flax spinner of Hillbank Works.

It was typical of many such mansions and manor houses built for the prosperous flax spinners and jute manufacturers of Dundeeā€™s industrial heyday in the nineteenth century.

The approach to the house with its turrets and elegant decorative carvings, crow-stepped gabling and ornamented parapets is via a winding driveway through the grounds.

The doorway is decorated with Corinthian columns.

The interior of the house had outstanding ornate ceilings and cornices, elaborate white and black marble fireplaces and sandstone stained glass windows.


British Native Plants Area

The following data was obtained from on site data sheets.

One of the most important features of the Garden is the Native Plant Communities Unit.

Here, a series of plant associations has been established to represent types of vegetation that can be found in Britain.

Sited in a layout running north to south are representatives of the mountain and uplands areas, dwarf scrub, pine and birch forest, ash wood, oak and beech forest and, at the lowest point, a nutrient-rich pool.

These are linked by a burn, which is fed from a spring in the North West corner of the Garden.

The woody plant elements are now sufficiently mature to allow the introduction beneath the trees of the associated field layers and the woodlands are already proving a useful teaching resource for students, school pupils and the general public.

Unlike a taxonomic layout, where plants are assembled in un-natural groupings that show supposed evolutionary relationships, the layout of the Botanic Garden respects the real nature of vegetation, thereby promoting familiarity with native plants from all over the British Isles, as well as providing a useful guide to their ecology.

Although not a substitute for field study, this is vital where the curriculum is already crowded.

Furthermore, it has also proved an economical method for growing environmentally demanding plants, since landscape gardeners, and environmentalists responsible for the rehabilitation of the countryside, have found the methods of establishment and management of this Unit to be of great interest and utility.


North American Trees

On leaving the native plant area I moved into an area containing a collection of North American trees and a typical North American log cabin.


The Evolution Garden

The Garden of Evolution was opened in 2006, which was the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's and Alfred Russet Wallace's announcement of the discovery of Evolution by Natural Selection.

Here you can follow the evolution of land plants over 500 million years of earth's history.

The original conception and initial design were by the Botanic Garden's Curator Alasdair Hood.

Later designs were by lan White Associates.

The walls are built of sandstone mainly from Denfind Stone of Monikie.

The stones are waste left behind by earlier quarrying.

Many hands built the walls - Botanic Garden staff, volunteers, and members of the Central Scotland Dry Stone Wallers Association.

Training was provided by Robert Thomson, a professional waller.

The first stones were laid in May 2006 and the complex was complete by May 2003.

The entrance archway was made of untreated dried native oak by Treewrights of Longniddry.

Here are some interesting facts from a few data sheets about the garden.


Evolution and Natural Selection

There are no scientific grounds for doubting that the earth is around 4500 million years old and that life on the planet has evolved.

The evidence for evolution comes from many sources e.g.

Fossil records, the geographic distribution of living things and comparative anatomy to name but a few.

Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species (1859) set out the case for evolution.

He also proposed the mechanism - Natural Selection - which explains how living things have become so well-adapted to their environments.

Like many great ideas, Natural Selection is basically very simple:

Living things produce more offspring than can survive.

These differ from one another in ways that can be inherited.

Those which are better adapted are more likely to survive and pass on their characteristics to future generations.

Thus the genetic constitution of populations changes over time.

Over longer periods of time, and with the aid of breeding barriers, new species appear.


Geological Time

The upper limit to the age of the earth (4500 million years) comes from dating meteorites left over from the formation of the solar system.

The age of ancient rocks can be dated accurately by measuring the amount of decay of long-lived radioactive isotopes to stable isotopes.

Very ancient rocks are rare because Earth is continually recycling its crust, the oldest dated rocks are over 4000 million years old.

Geologists have split Earth's history into areas and periods depending on their rock and fossil types

The Precambrian era which ended ended about 542 million years ago covers by far the greatest part of the Earth's known history.


The Evolution of Plants on land.


For the most of life's history, living things were only found in water e.g. rivers and in the sea.

The land was first colonised by plants around 500 million years ago.

Much of the history of the land plants since then can be seen as a struggle against drying out.

Here are some representatives of the major groups as they have appeared through evolutionary time:

Green Algae

The choleochaetes are a group of green algae and are the closest relatives of the land plants.

For example: Land plants share significant common features with the green algae, in so far as, both groups have chlorophyll a and b, use starch as a food store, and have cellulose cell walls.

The earliest green algal fossils date from around 900 million years ago.

The green scum you see on the surface of water will contain a variety of freshwater green algae.


Mosses and Liverworts

Mosses and liverworts evolved 450 million years ago.

They have no internal plumbing, they are low growing and resemble the earliest land plants.

The earliest land plants lacked the specialist water carrying tissues found in the vascular plants (such as ferns, conifers and flowering plants) which evolved later.

Today there are three groups of these non-vascular plants - the mosses (Bryophyta), liverworts (Hepatophyta) and hornworts (Anthocerophyta).




These plants are poorly represented as fossils because they are soft and non-woody but spores have been found in the lower Silurian era 435 million years ago.

Mosses and liverworts reproduce sexually but also produce single-celled asexual spores.

These spore capsules grow out from the main plant on a stalk.

The liverwort marchantia has male and female umbrellas which produce the male and female gametes.

Spores are produced on the underside of the plant.

There are also cup-shaped bodies (gemmae cups) which contain bodies that give rise directly to new plants.


Ferns and their Relatives

Ferns pteridophyta evolved internal plumbing by 300 million years ago.

Pteridophyta includes the ferns, horsetails and club mosses and are characterized by the presence of internal plumbing but the absence of seeds.

This efficient water-conducting tissue ment that pteridophyles could potentially grow much taller than mosses and liverworts and the carboniferous forests of the period were dominated by tree-sized ferns and club mosses.

Competition from the later seed plants has increasingly marginalised this group so only a few tree-like species are found today.

The club mosses probably appeared earlier than the ferns and horsetails.

The earliest fern fossils date from 375 million years ago.


Cycads evolved seed-bearing cases 300 million years ago.

The presence of seeds meant that plants now had a more successful method of reproduction than the spores found in the earlier plants.

Seeds contain a complete embryo plant.



The flowering plants (angioserms) have seeds but are surrounded with fruit which protect the embryo plants and aid in the dispersal of seeds.

This probably explains why they are by far the most successful group of land plants.


Plant evolution

Here are a few key dates:

Green algaes evolved by 1000 million years ago.

Earliest land plants evolved 500 million years ago.

Mosses & Liverworts evolved 450 million years ago.

Vascular plants evolved 425 million years ago.

Conifers evolved 300 million years ago.

First flowering plants evolved 145 million years ago.

Magnolias evolved 100 million years ago.

Orchids & Grasses evolved 65 million years ago.


Mediterranean Garden.

As the title suggests this garden contains a collection of Mediterranean plants, plus it also contains some large 'Topiary' subjects.


Herb Garden

This garden also has a Mediterranean feel to it with its Italian style layout.

Because this garden is sheltered by the glasshouses this creates a temperate microclimate that is ideal for the plants being grown here.


The Glasshouses

The Glasshouses contain Desert and Tropical plants.

One demonstrates plantlife in the tropical rainforest, where citrus fruit can be frequently found, coffee beans grow and the pond contains giant water lilies.

The other takes you on a journey through a temperate region with bananas and insectivorous plants, to an arid zone with cacti and other succulents.

...............and that concludes my visit to Dundee Botanic Gardens.

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