The history of Rio’s Botanical Garden intertwines with Rio’s history itself, which rose to the status of Viceroyalty of Portugal in 1763, a milestone on the expansion and growth of Brazil’s political and cultural identity. From that point, it became possible to implement the concept of sovereignty, formalizing the State image, uniting the whole country under modern European aspects of civility and citizenship.
In 1808 the entire Portuguese Court moved out to Rio de Janeiro, turning the city into the Portuguese Empire Headquarters, which is quite a rare event in World History – the fact of a Regent leave his homeland to rule the Empire from one of their conquered lands. On June 13th 1808, the old Engenho da Lagoa (Lagoa Mill), a property of Rodrigo de Freitas, an officer of the Portuguese Army’s Cavalry which had already returned to Portugal, was expropriated by decree by Prince Regent Dom João de Bragança (the future King John VI), reserving a space on that place for the creation of an Acclimatization Garden, an area to acclimate spices from East India such as black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon.
On October 11th 1808, the region is named Real Horto (Royal Garden), receiving new species brought from Mauritius, and throughout the garden’s development until the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889, the garden was expanding its collection, with specimens of Palma Mater, Camphor, Walnut , Jackfruit and Whole cloves, among many others.
Right after the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889, the locality began to be called Botanic Garden, receiving visitors from many different locations and becoming another city postcard. Among the distinguished visitors a highlight we could point is Albert Einstein in 1925 and Queen Elizabeth II. In 1937 the Botanical Garden was listed by IPHAN (Portuguese for National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage) and in 1991 was recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.
The Botanical Garden has a Visitor’s Center, a structure dedicated to customer service, which provides informative maps in several languages, as well as a space dedicated to art exhibitions and a team of guides to conduct guided visits. It comprehends over 130 acres of green area containing a huge diversity of about 6,500 preserved species – some of them endangered.
It also has historical monuments and the largest library specializing in Botany in Brazil, plus a herbarium with 650,000 dehydrated samples cataloged (available in Portuguese to the public at www.jbrj.gov.br), which are part of a complex fully dedicated to knowledge and environmental culture in Brazil.
Jeep Tour has daily departures – both morning and afternoon’s – from Monday to Monday and the tour of the Botanical Garden has a duration of 4 hours.