Story of the botanical garden in Dahlem, Berlin.
In order to experience a tropical side of Berlin, you have to go to Dahlem, the southwest residential district located a bit out of the way and certainly away from the city centre. Dahlem was not incorporated into the city until 1920. Around that time, the district became an important academic centre. This quiet, suburban area was to be turned into a “German Oxford”. Because of that, several important research institutes such as, for example, the headquarters of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (transformed into the Max Planck Society after the Second World War) were relocated to Dahlem. Later, some of the buildings were modelled into an American-style campus of the Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin). At present, the Berlin Botanical Garden, which we visited in 2017, is also a part of this campus.
The garden in Dahlem dates back to the end of the 19th century, when the decision was taken to move the Berlin botanical garden from Schöneberg, where tropical plants were no longer safe due to, among others, growing density of urban development and increasing air pollution, as well as a general lack of space. The plants were transferred to Dahlem under the supervision of Prof. Adolf Engler, who, interestingly, had studied in Wrocław and been director of the Wrocław Botanical Garden (1884-1889). He also designed the new space, where he intended to encapsulate “the world in a single garden”. It was opened to public in 1910.
When planning a visit to Dahlem, it is worthwhile to reserve more time for a walk around the landscape part, but it is the greenhouses that make the greatest impression. And there are a few in the Berlin garden. In the centre of the complex you will find the Great Pavilion, one of the largest such buildings in the world, surrounded by smaller buildings dedicated to the presentation of various species of tropical and subtropical plants. House P is certainly a sight to behold, as it is designed to look like a castle of glass with a two-tower façade. It houses plants from the Mediterranean region and the Canary Islands. Overall, Dahlem boasts to grow over 20,000 species of plants from around the world. Here you will find one of the strangest of them all – Welwitschia mirabilis, which produces only two leaves throughout its entire life.
The easiest way to reach Dahlem is via public transport. A 10-minute walk from the Botanisher Garten S-Bahn station (line S1) will get you to the garden through a pleasant neighbourhood with residential buildings. Most of the surrounding streets have botanical names – you can choose the simplest route via Hortensienstrasse, turn into Lilienstrasse to Unter den Eichen or take a longer walk somewhere between Tulpenstrasse, Hortensienplatz and Begonienstrasse.
Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin
Freie Universität Berlin
Open daily 9-20 (garden) and 9-19 (greenhouses).
Entrance fee: EUR 6/3 (reduced rate)
More information: www.bgbm.org