Plants for Life

Medicinal plants harvested from the wild remain of immense importance for the well-being of millions of people around the world. Providing both a relief from illness and a source of income, over 70,000 plant species are thought to be medicinal. Loss of habitat combined with over-harvesting threatens the survival of many of these plant species. Botanic gardens are important agencies for ensuring their conservation. The original purpose of the earliest botanic gardens established in Europe in the sixteenth century was the cultivation and study of medicinal plants at a time when medicine and botany were essentially the same disciplines. The tradition of cultivating and displaying medicinal plants has been retained by many botanic gardens. For example, a study by BGCI in 1998 highlighted the medicinal plant collections of 48o botanic gardens.