A new CETAF member: the Botanical Garden of Pisa, the oldest in Europe

The Botanical Garden of Pisa is an historical Institution in Italy

It's a great pleasure for CETAF to present one of the new members of the Consortium.

Today we meet Giovanni Astuti, from the Botanic Garden and Museum of the University of Pisa, Italy.

"I work at the Museum Section, where I’m in charge of the management of the non-living collections, especially the herbarium collections"

  • Tell us something more about the Orto Botanico...

The Botanic Garden of Pisa is the oldest university botanic garden in the world, being founded in 1543 by Luca Ghini, who was also credited as the inventor of the herbarium made of dried plants. 

As a botanical institution, we are committed to spreading botanical knowledge at different levels, to different kinds of users. 

The garden has an extension of about 25,000 m2 and hosts about 2,000 cultivated plants. A special focus is put on endangered species: we have currently in cultivation about 50 taxa threatened at the global level according to the IUCN. 

Our institution supports researches carried out by scholars of botany collaborating with them in some sorts of common garden experiments on plants belonging to some critical groups studied for systematic purposes and collected in different sites across their ranges.

As concerns our herbarium, it consists of about 400,000 specimens collected since the end of the eighteenth century. Our staff members are directly involved in increasing the herbarium with new collections, focused on the Italian flora, and our region, Tuscany, in particular. We are also carrying out cataloguing of historical collections and searching for nomenclatural types preserved here. We are making considerable progress in the herbarium digitization thanks to an extensive background work for the acquisition of specimens’ images and labels’ metadata and their databasing, which also requires to build and improve the taxonomic backbone of the database.

In our garden you can also find a permanent museum exhibit that recalls the history of the garden, with a particular focus on its institutional role for the teaching of botany. I’d like to mention the very fascinating plant and mushroom models created from fine beeswax and natural dyes by wax-modellers of the Florentine school which flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries.

  • Why are you joining CETAF?

Taxonomy is usually seen as a discipline out of date and it’s not so much appealing to attract funding. Instead, we believe that taxonomy is fundamental, especially for documentation purposes of living and non-living museum collections. Therefore, to be part of a network that mainly takes care of these two elements – museum collections and taxonomy – is a great opportunity for exchanging knowledge and having a better access to financial supports.

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