The Gardens Today
After the handover to the Penang State Government, the Gardens gradually eroded their role in research and botanical activities. Consequently, most of the herbarium collections of Curtis and successive superintendents were transferred to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, since when the Penang Botanic Gardens function more as a park than as botanic gardens. The Gardens' main objectives include "conservation programmes, provision of a clean, safe and conducive public recreation environment, education and raising of public awareness in the appreciation of nature and gardening". The Gardens continue some research, collaborating with other Botanic Gardens in the development and implementation of botanical and ecological research programmes both nationally and internationally.
The Penang Botanic Gardens Department aims to provide visitors with programmes that focus on the historical and cultural heritage of the gardens, the plant collections, natural landscape and rich diversity of flora and fauna. It also aims to provide professional advice related to botany, taxonomy, horticulture and landscaping.
The gardens occupy a 29 ha. site in a valley described as "an amphitheatre of hills" covered with lush tropical rain-forests. Its lush greenery and tranquil setting makes it a favourite park and a popular tourist destination. It is Penang's unique natural heritage, being the only garden of its kind in Malaysia. As well as being a repository of flora and fauna, unique to the country and to the region, it serves as a "green lung" for metropolitan Penang. As such, the garden is a popular recreational spot; some of the recreational activities include jogging, walking, jungle trekking and aerobics.
Amongst the flora in the gardens, most conspicuous are the Cannon Ball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) and the large buttress roots of the Sengkuang Tree (Dracontomelon dao). There is also the Pinang Palm (Areca catechu) that lent its name to the island of Penang, and the Black Lily (Tacca integrifolia) with its unique purplish-black coloured flowers. The Candle Tree (Parmentiera cereifera), the endemic Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum barbatum) and the ginger, Geoctachys penangensis, can also be found in the gardens.
There are also collections of rare plant species housed in the Fern House, Palm Collection, Aroid Walkway, Orchidarium, Perdana Conservatory, Cactus House, Bromeliad and Begonia House, Herb Garden, Fern Rockery, Sun Rockery, and the Formal Garden.
The garden fauna include long-tailed Macaques, Dusky Leaf Monkeys, Black Giant Squirrels as well as many insects and butterflies.
The path around the Lily Pond offers access to tropical rain-forest, a short distance from the Botanic Gardens gate. The walk from the Lower Circular Road passes two prominent groups of palms and bamboo clusters along the Waterfall River. Two orchid houses provide comparison between cultivated hybrids and wild orchid species. The best time to admire the flowering trees is during the dry season, from February to April, when the Thai Bungor (Lagerstroemia loudonii), the Javanese Cassia (Cassia javanica) and the Rosy Trumpet (Tabebuia rosea) are in full flower.
From the Lily Pond path there is a climb to the site of Charles Curtis' former house, although only a few bricks can still be seen. Various hiking paths lead from the Botanic Gardens, to Penang Hill and to Mount Olivia at the north. Mount Olivia was the site of the Raffles' home and was named after Raffles' wife, Olivia.
Read more about this topic: Penang Botanic Gardens
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“Have We not made the earth as a cradle and the mountains as pegs? And We created you in pairs, and We appointed your sleep for a rest; and We appointed night for a garment, and We appointed day for a livelihood. And We have built above you seven strong ones, and We appointed a blazing lamp and have sent down out of the rain-clouds water cascading that We may bring forth thereby grain and plants, and gardens luxuriant.”
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