National Botanical Garden University of Havana.Live the Experience with Science!
Photos: Gabriel Guerra Bianchini, Carlos Martín, Karen Aguilar Mugica
First canopy or zip line in Havana
25 kilometers south of the city centre of the Cuban capital, time stands still in the natural beauty of the National Botanical Garden (NBG), part of the University of Havana (UH).
Approximately 550 hectares of magical landscapes have been created in this area, some with plants brought from the tropics in different parts of the world. What were once cattle farms are today part of a great collective dream made possible thanks to the commitment and dedication of many people.
Commander Fidel Castro commissioned the creation of one of the largest botanical gardens in the world and the most important in the country to the German professor Dr. Johannes Bisse, who since 1966 served as advisor and professor of botany at the Biology school of the University of Havana.
Almost 20 years passed by from 1968, when the idea of this garden began to take shape until finally, the National Botanical Garden opened its doors to the public on the 24th of March of 1984.
Currently it treasures a collection of approximately 3,000 plant species, the largest collection of trees in Cuba. A large part of its land is used for the exhibition of outdoor plants, geographically demarcated by region and with a rigorous scientific order and landscape design.
Many plants were brought from expeditions throughout Cuba, mottled, as cuttings or seeds. For this, several field trips were made in Cuba and other countries in the region, although the vast majority of exotics were received as seeds through exchange with related institutions around the world.
As the NBG is national in scope, Cuban phytogeography has enormous significance and proves to be one of the most interesting collections. In this area one finds the typical tree cover of the Cuban forests and shrubs, pine forests, dry and semi-deciduous forests, rainforests, mogotes and jungle, savannahs of júcaros and palms, and the famous cuabal which is praised by international specialists and horticulturists around the globe, building up to one of the best artificial representations of native vegetation.
A landmark of this garden is undoubtedly the Palmetum, which contains a wide and valuable collection of palms from all over the world, considered by many to be the most extensive collection of this type.
In summary, the NBG of the University of Havana houses some 350,000 trees of more than 3,000 species ordered scientifically in 25 areas, representing the tropical flora of Cuba and the world in a scenario made by man for over the past 50 years. The exhibition pavilions, the outdoor collections and the Japanese Garden complete an interesting educational walk.
The NBG is a leading university institution in scientific research and conservation of Cuban flora, where knowledge is applied in order to foster the love, care and conservation of our nature.
With the opening, on offer, apart from the classic attractions, are certain innovations which will continue distinguishing the preference for a healthy enjoyment of this garden.
The garden also has various gastronomic options, including four specialized restaurants, with quality service at affordable prices.
New this season is an overhaul of the children’s playground, one of the free services. Meanwhile expensive works were carried out in order to give better service to the population, among them: repaving of the roads, a new food plaza, maintenance of the walkways and bridges of the Japanese garden; the construction of a 1000 m² colour garden soon to be inaugurated, as well as the renovation of the ponds, maintenance of the perimeter fence, creation of the visitor centre and a covered amphitheatre. All of this has allowed for the improvement of comfort in the experience of visitors of the institution.
The construction and opening of new attractions such as the canopy (first in Havana), the planned mountain biking track, a rope park and the climbing route in the mogotes area, will increase the options for pleasure with an air of modernity and tempered on the spot, as explained to this publication by its CEO, Carlos M. Pérez Cuevas.
The canopy, he pointed out, is a form of ecotourism that arose from the use of the zip line for the study of the canopy of the forest, hence its name, referring to the set of treetops. That is why this extreme attraction has its origins in ecological studies and scientific research in general. In addition to the adrenaline of the flight, you can see the forest from a totally different perspective. On the other hand, the extensive development of vegetation in these 50 years has created numerous accessible resources for birds, already an important part of this ex situ conservation site, the conservation category given to botanical gardens.
So far 120 bird species have been registered in the NBG, of which eight are endemic to Cuba and 12 to the Caribbean. At least 34 species nest in areas of the garden and four of the bird species that live there are threatened and are recognized in the Cuban Red Book of Threatened Vertebrates, Dr. Lourdes Mugica explained to this publication.
But the NBG is also important for the region, since at least 70 species of birds are migratory or have populations that migrate, most of them from North America, which come to spend the winter in the tropics, as is the case of the warblers. Other species come from South America, like the Grey Kingbird, who come to Cuba during the summer only to reproduce.
Due to the importance and attraction of its birds, the NBG is currently an important site for birdwatching, a very relaxing and educational hobby that allows you to enjoy nature and stimulate knowledge and conservation. Yet another reason to visit this wonderful garden, where you will learn, have fun, and share with family and friends in very diverse and healthy ways, allowing you to enjoy a unique experience, because it is with Science!
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Carretera El Rocío Km 31/2, Calabazar,Boyeros, La Habana, Cuba.