Royal Botanical Gardens - A view from our expert author

botanical gardens peradeniya sri lanka by anton gvozdikov shutterstock© Anton Gvozdikov, Shutterstock

This peaceful eden in Peradeniya is a must-see.

No visit to Kandy is complete without seeing the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, 6½km south from the town, on the Colombo road. Its origins go back to the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747–80) when it was a royal residence and park. It formally became a botanical garden in 1821 when the redoubtable Edward Barnes was governor. The first tea seedlings to be grown in Ceylon were planted in the gardens at Barnes’s behest in 1824, although it was 50 years later that tea showed its potential as a viable commercial crop.

The gardens consist of nearly 61ha dedicated to the flora of Sri Lanka with a spectacular arboretum that includes many endemic trees. There are over 110 endemic plants, as well as major collections of palms, bamboo, cacti, flowers and orchids in a delightful orchid house. There are more than 200,000 dried and preserved specimens in the Herbarium, collected during the 180 years the gardens have been in existence. There is also a biotechnology laboratory engaged in the mass propagation of ornamental, rare and endemic plants. A striking feature is the avenue of royal palms (Roystonea regia) begun in 1905. In the medicinal herb garden grow some of the herbs used in ayurveda medicine.

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