Tropski rastlinjak



A speech of prof. dr. Tone Wraber at the presentation of the first monograph on the Botanical Garden in Ljubljana written by J. Bavcon, issued on the occasion of the 190th anniversary of the Garden.


 (10 October 2000)


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Occasions when one can make a speech in honour of the 190th anniversary of uninterrupted functioning of a Slovenian institution are quite rare indeed. This pleasure befell me as a representative of the older generation of Slovenian botanists, one of those who tend to look back into the past, especially if this is as abounding in memorable achievements as the history of the institution whose 190th anniversary is being remembered and celebrated at this congregation. The invitation told us to come to the Ljubljana Botanical Garden, and should one still feel uncertain as to his whereabouts, the green surroundings should dispell any doubts there might be. I do feel I have reasons enough to speak above all about the future of our almost bicentenial celebratus and this is what I am going to do. However, it would be wrong not to mention at least some of the facts relating to the rich tradition of this excellent institution. This seems all the more justified as the modern times are marked by overall exaggerations of every kind, so that the term traditional is often misapplied to things aged fifteen, ten years or even less. The present 190th anniversary is of course the real thing - real tradition, and what makes it so very special is that though old in years, the Garden is astoundingly young in appearance and functioning and fit to face the century to come. Let us then take a closer look at our maiden aged 190 years! It is said that Napoleon's army left us some physical souvenirs whose descendants still live in our midst. In one case at least this must be perfectly true: in 1810, Ljubljana as the center of the newly established Illyric Provinces welcomed the founding of the Ecole Centrale which fell in love with a beautiful girl, our Slovenian (pedants would insist on "Carniolan") Flora - Cvetana in Slovenian. The proposal of matrimony was accepted - the wedding ceremony was conducted by Franc Hladnik, a native of Idrija, to whom the occasion could not have fallen too difficult as he was a priest in addition to being a professor of the Ljubljana grammar school (where as a prefect he also signed Prešern's school certificates), and a botanist of renown not only at home but also outside the then Carniola, to say, in imperial Vienna. Born out of this marriage was a fine healthy child, so strong that it is well and alive even today. Though one of the parents left it very soon, the child survived the shock quite easily because Mother Cvetana - assisted by a series of ever-new fathers - has remained at its side to these very days. In 1843 Cvetana received her first acknowledgement, A Survey of Carniolan Flora, by Andrej Fleischmann, Hladnik's pupil, gardener and later also director of the Garden. Some fifty or sixty years after the wedding the Garden seemed to survive almost entirely through a large variety of fruit trees. This lasted until 1886 when Cvetana found herself another lover. This proved to be a very steady marriage lasting as long as 1931. The man, a professor by the name of Alfonz Paulin was the most attentive of husbands; he realized that Cvetana was not be neglected so she became an exclusive object of his fervent research. He surely could not have had any problems in this respect as he actually never married in real life. His era is marked by an impressive amount of new knowledge on Carniolan flora. In 1889 he introduced an international exchange of seeds. In the Garden a new herbarial collection was in the making, a corner stone of the present-day collection of the Biology Unit of the Biotechnical Faculty. Between 1901 and 1936 he published, by models that continue to be valid also in our times, an exsiccate collection "Flora exsiccata Carniolica". After the foundation of the University of Ljubljana, he decicated some semesters to the teaching of botany. Then, however, came the year 1918 and therewith the disintegration of the state of birth. A new state was born, restoring to the Garden its original purpose, allowing it, after more than a century, to again become a University Botanical Garden. At the beginning of this period it was still led by A. Paulin. After Paulin the formerly close link between the Garden and the research engaged in by its directors became less firm or else there was none at all. In 1964 the Garden passed into the control of algologist Jože Lazar. In his time the Garden was enlarged and got its first and only greenhouse. A memorial was erected to Alfonz Paulin (1963) and a special publication was dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Garden (1960). Lazar's period is associated with pioneer Slovenian investigations of freshwater algae, which found expression in his major work Freshwater Algae in Slovenia: Catalogue of Freshwater Species and Determination Key (1960). Lazar's successor Vinko Strgar was the first Garden director who beside being a biologist had also been trained as a gardener. In his time (1967-1992) an important section of the Garden research was dedicated to the genus Sesleria while attempts were made at growing Velebit degenia, Pontic azalea, and Blagay's daphne. The first guide through the Garden appeared in 1973. A newly described houseleek from Donačka gora was named after Juvan (1971), Paulin's pupil who worked in the Garden between 1896 and 1960, thus becoming the epitome of Slovenian botanic gardening. And here we are in the midst of the our own times! The Garden has since 1995 been in the hands of Jože Bavcon. Under him the Garden premises have undergone various renovations; he is behind the tremendous boom of the guiding activities in the Garden and is responsible for the publication which has brought us here today, and .... More about this "and ..." a little later, let me first say a word or two on - financial means! what else... The present Garden functions with extremely modest, I should say shamefully restrained means. I would not say that there is a complete lack of understanding for its work. What I have in mind by referring to shamefully restrained means is the regular project-based financing of the institution. All the renovations in the Garden - and they have not been few! - have been made possible due to the special means acquired thanks to the Municipality of Ljubljana and recently also the Ministry of Science and Technology. The richly endowed publication which is before us is being published by the publisher Kmečki Glas, and this has likewise been realized with the help of the Municipality of Ljubljana. The publishing house Krokar gets the credit for a smaller Garden Guide (1998) and the afore-mentioned sponsors and some others for the advertising material. And last but not least, the collaboration of such horticulturally informed enthousiasts as Mr. Stane Sušnik is much appreciated. It could be said that the situation has been improving, yet the crucial task still lies ahead of us. What I have in mind is the laying out of the new Botanical Garden of the University of Ljubljana at the long determined location in the Biology Center along Večna pot. While the present Garden is to be preserved as a monument of landscape gardening, the new Garden is to expand its activities in the realm of scientific research, education, nature conservation, as well as spirit and body. This of course is no minor task - it is in fact a great challenge to be met in the new millenium. After a considerable lapse of time I this year revisited Kew Gardens near London, and what I saw there filled me with pride at being a botanist. This is how my heart and mind feel here and now, and I firmly believe the new Garden will make us even prouder. Imagine what it will mean to Ljubljana townsmen to behold a cow - oh yes, a cow! - and a lion on one side of Večna pot and and on the other Blagay's daphne or a cactus known for its nocturnal bloom as the Queen of the Night, to be able to spends the whole day long among animal cages and greenhouses, in natural and suitably co-naturally designed environment where the known native world will be viewed side by side with scenes from other parts of the world. However, let me finish without delay - I have only just realized that I must sound like a candidate on some election campaign who is making his very best of the last seconds available before the beginning of pre-election silence. So let me speak no more!


Tone Wraber, 10 October 2000