Often the greenest and most stunning places in an urban environment, botanical gardens serve as recreational areas where the public can interface with the natural world in a context that inspires awe and respect. These gardens serve as crucial verdant spaces in cities, not only for people, but for pollinators including bees, bats, butterflies, and birds. They also help to lower temperatures and filter air. (Speaking of urban green spaces, here are the best cities for urban gardening.)
Expressions of sheer beauty aside, botanical gardens have always served a greater purpose. Early plant collections called “physic gardens” were established in medieval Europe as research centers for discovering and teaching the medicinal and therapeutic qualities of plants. Some 19th-century botanical gardens were started in tropical and subtropical areas to catalog the diverse plants indigenous to that area. Now, herbariums that catalog thousands of species of flora are a part of nearly every major botanical garden.
In the 21st century, as we witness climate change and mass extinctions, the role of botanical gardens is shifting toward one of conservation. The protection and propagation of threatened, endangered, and native species and habitats has become paramount. Propagation facilities and seed banks are not uncommon in modern botanic gardens. (Here is the most threatened wildlife in every state.)
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the best botanical gardens in the world by reviewing articles on the subject appearing on numerous travel, gardening, and general interest websites, including Afar, Travel & Leisure, Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, Veranda, Time Out, Thrillist, Garden Design, Planted Well, and Balcony Garden Web.
Some of the gardens on the list are free, state-sponsored parks, while others are private collections run on family estates. Many are the life work of a dedicated botanist and some have been rejuvenated from near-ruin. The best botanical gardens in the world span six continents and feature plants from nearly every biome on earth, from deserts to rainforests to high mountains.