The old Botanical Garden and the move to Nymphenburg

The first Munich Botanical Garden was opened in 1812 on a five-hectare site west of Karlsplatz, today’s Stachus. It belonged to the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and was under the direction of Franz von Paula von Schrank (1747-1835). The rapid development of the city from 1871 to the turn of the century made it increasingly urgent to move the garden to a more suitable location. Also the upswing of scientific botany at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) created the need for a modern institute building and larger garden area with show greenhouses.

The driving force behind the relocation of the garden from the city center to Nymphenburg was Karl Eberhard von Goebel (1855-1932), director of the Botanical Garden from 1891 to 1932. After heated discussion in the Bavarian Chamber of Deputies on February 12, 1908, the preparatory work on the site near Nymphenburg Park could be started in 1909. The Royal Bavarian Chief Inspector Peter Holfelder (1878-1936), previously a teacher at the horticultural school in Weihenstephan, was involved as horticultural engineer. Leonhard Dillis (1871-1946) was responsible for setting up the greenhouses. The implementation of the planting was in the hands of the garden curator Walter Kupper (1874-1953). The topping-out ceremony was finally celebrated in 1912, and the buildings were completed in 1913. Finally, the following moved from the Old Botanical Garden: the Botanical Laboratory, the Institute of Plant Physiology, the Herbarium and the Botanical State Collection, which was then open to the public as the “Botanical Museum”.

The new Botanical Garden and Botanical Institute

The new Botanical Garden was officially inaugurated on May 10, 1914, still under the regency of Ludwig III. The garden consists of a central section in neo-baroque style – a unique feature at the time of its opening – as well as an Alpinum with a pond in front and a large arboretum. A small structure in the center of the garden, initially designed as an open shade and drinking hall, has served as a café since 1936. For exhibitions and events in summer, the garden uses its 390-square-meter wintering hall from 1912. The “Winter Hall” was historically renovated in 2005 and continues to fulfill its original purpose in winter, namely to house the Mediterranean woody plants and palms kept in tubs.

The institute building, part of which is a listed building, was built between 1908 and 1913 at a cost of around 5 million marks. It survived the Second World War unscathed and, with its rich interior decoration, is an important example of Munich’s Art Nouveau style. To this day, the institute building houses collections of dried plants – the herbaria – of the Bavarian State and the Ludwig Maximilian University. With around three million specimens, including about one million fungi, lichens, algae and mosses, it is one of the largest and scientifically most important plant collections in the world.

The professors of systematic botany and mycology of the LMU and their colleagues also work in this institute building. During the semester months, classes are held there in modern practical rooms and laboratories.

Reconstruction of the ornamental vases

In September 2020, the ornamental vases that adorned the roof of the main building of the Botanical Garden from 1914 to 1956 were reconstructed in a historically accurate manner. A report on the reconstruction incl. pictures can be found here.

History of the SNSB

Read more about the history of the State Natural Science Collections (Staatliche Naturwissenschaftliche Sammlungen Bayerns – SNSB) on the SNSB homepage.

Further literature on the history of the Botanical Garden

  • Holfelder, P. 1912: Die Neuanlage des K. Botanischen Gartens. – Bayerische Gartenbau-Gesellschaft 1910 und 1911, München.
  • Kupper, J. A. 1926: Der Botanische Garten. – Festschrift der Universität München: 287-288.
  • Merxmüller, R, H. 1977: Geschichte des Botanischen Gartens und der Botanischen Staatssammlung München. Botanischer Garten 1812-1977. – Jahresbericht der Generaldirektion der Staatl. Naturwiss. Sammlungen Bayerns: 19-34.
  • Renner, S. S. 2014: Geschichte des Botanischen Gartens München. Pp. 10-17 in Botanischer Garten München, Herausgegeben vom Botanischen Garten München und der Gesellschaft der Freunde des Botanischen Gartens München. – München Verlag