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Zomba Botanic Garden

The garden is located in the Municipality of Zomba, Malawi’s old capital, which experiences a cool temperature climate, owing to its proximity to the Zomba Plateau. It receives rainfall of around 2,000 mm per year, making it ideal for a large number of both indigenous and exotic species, such as Pinus patula and Newtonia bachananii. When it was founded, the garden covered 20 ha. The garden was later handed over to the Forestry Department, which led to the loss of many species, such as Ginkgo biloba, Solandra gattatu, Xeroderris stuhlmanii, and Aleurites montana. The area occupied by the garden was increased to 50 ha when its management was handed over to the National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens in 1989. Today there are over 500 species in the garden; 200 of these have been introduced during the past ten years.

Fern Collection
Approximately 206 fern species have been recorded in Malawi; 25 of which are cultivated in the garden, especially along the stream banks. The species Adiantum poirettii, Cheilanthes quadripnnata, Cheilanthes viridis var. glauca, Doryopteris poiretii, Pellaea angulosa, Pellaea doniana, Pteris catoptera, and Pteris friesii dominate and have adapted well to the cool temperatures of Zomba.

Orchid Collection
There are over 400 species of orchids recorded in Malawi. Twelve epiphytic orchids species are propagated in wood charcoal and dead wood under a shed, including Ansellia africana, Bulbophyllum sandersonii, Angraecopsis parviflora, Angraecum cochiferum, Acampe praemorsa, Calyptrochilum christyanum, Cytorchis arcuata, and Bulbophyllum malawiense. In addition, four terrestrial orchid species have been introduced to the garden, especially those with edible tubers, such as Disa spp., Habenaria walleri, and Satyrium spp.

Cycad Collection
Encephalartos gratus is the only cycad indigenous to Malawi and endemic to Mulanje Mountain. This species was planted in the garden in the 1970s. Cycas revoluta has also been planted.

Succulent Collection
This collection can be found on the rockery areas of the garden. The family Aloeaceae is represented by 17 indigenous species, for example, Aloe arborescens, A buchananii, A buttneri, A cameronii, A canii, A christianii, A cryptopoda, A duckeri, A excelsa, A greatheadii, A mawii, A menyhanthii, A myrianthii, A mzimbana, A nutii, A swynnertonii, and A zebrina. More than 50 indigenous and exotic Aloe species were collected from the southern region and are cultivated, with most flowering in winter and spring; a few species flower in summer. Unfortunately, some species suffer from bacterial and fungal infections during the wet season. Succulent and xerophytic species belonging to Euphorbiaceae, Cactaceae, Agavaceae, Amaryllidaceae, and Crassulaceae are also cultivated.

Grass Collection
Some years ago, 23 grass species were introduced in the garden. Exotic grass species have also been planted, including Vetiveria zizaniodes, Pennistum parpureum, and Hyparrhenia sp. Two indigenous bamboos—Oreobambus buchwaldii and Oxytenanthera obyssinca—and three exotic bamboo species—Bambusa glaucescens, Bambusa vulgaris, and Dendrocalamus strictusare among the living grass collection. Although the grasses do not produce colourful flowers, this is one of the most attractive areas in the garden.

Wildflower Collection
Eleven wildflower species have so far been collected for cultivation. These are Crinum macowanii, Dissotis princeps, Helichrysum nitens, Plectranthus pubescens, Costus spectabilisi, Vernonia natalensis, Erythrocephalum zambezianum, Strepotocarpus goetzei, Pyrrosia schimperiana, Aneilema johnstonii, and Impatiens eryaleia. They flower all year round if watered regularly.

Economic Plant Collection
A focus area is the collection and propagation of wild fruits, for example, Uapaca kirkiana, Azanza garckeana, Tamarindus indica, and Terminalia catappa. Indigenous vegetables, such as Bidens pilosa, Gynandropsis gynandra, and Amaranthus sp. are also displayed.

Herbaceous Collection
Herbaceous plants include annuals, perennials, and ornamental plants that are cultivated for their colourful flowers. This collection is for both commercial purposes and display and includes herbaceous perennials, such as Salvia splendens, Chrysanthemum, Lobelia, Bulbine caulescens, and Tulbaghia violacea.

Tree and Shrub Collection
This is a representative collection of Malawian and introduced trees of this part of Africa. Emphasis is placed on the ex situ conservation of plants that are threatened and rare, as well as those with horticultural uses and wood products. Furthermore, the garden boasts a collection of palms.

Other Collections
The Zomba Botanic Garden nursery contains indigenous and exotic tree seedlings, ornamentals, and medicinal plants. The tree seedlings are sold or supplied to the public to encourage community participation. Ornamental plant species are sold for landscaping to generate funds for the botanic gardens.

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SABONET.
Southern African Botanical Diversity Network.