In this edition of Rolé Visita, we will unravel the story behind a postcard from Rio: the Botanical Garden. This important botanical research center in Brazil continues to perform this function and its role has expanded with time: it is also one of the most beautiful leisure spaces in the city, a large green space open to public visitation. The history of the Botanical Garden begins in 1808, when D. João VI established the Royal Estate with a very different goal from what people imagine today: the purpose of studying plants for commercial interests. At that time, botany was strongly linked to the usefulness of vegetables. The aim was to study and improve the development of crops, especially for crop adaptation to Brazilian climate and soil.
The activities of the garden begun at the same place where the Gunpowder Factory was installed, in the extensive and then distant Lagoa Farm Rodrigo de Freitas - possibly to keep the activities in secrecy. The first challenge was to acclimatize black tea, a species from China. The idea was to produce seeds and seedlings and distribute them among the provinces of the Empire, encouraging the exportation. Then the researches turned to the native species. Under the direction of Frei Lopes do Sacramento (1778-1829) and João Barbosa Rodrigues (1842-1909), the institution gained prestige among foreign scientists who sought knowledge about Brazilian flora. From the 1980s, when environmental issues began to take shape, studies on biodiversity and conservation of endangered flora gained momentum in the park.