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Botanical Gardens

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Though these ancient gardens shared some of the characteristics of present-day botanical gardens, the forerunners of modern botanical gardens are generally regarded as being the medieval monastic physic gardens that originated after the decline of the Roman Empire at the time of Emperor Charlemagne (742–789 CE). These contained a hortus, a garden used mostly for vegetables, and another section set aside for specially labelled medicinal plants and this was called the herbularis or hortus medicus— more generally known as a physic garden, and a viridarium or orchard. These gardens were probably given impetus when Charlemagne issued a capitulary, the Capitulary de Villis, which listed 73 herbs to be used in the physic gardens of his dominions. Many of these were found in British gardens even though they only occurred naturally in continental Europe, demonstrating earlier plant introduction. Pope Nicholas V set aside part of the Vatican grounds in 1447, for a garden of medicinal plants that were used to promote the teaching of botany, and this was a forerunner to the University gardens at Padua and Pisa established in the 1540s. Certainly the founding of many early botanic gardens was instigated by members of the medical profession.

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