A new Rising Path, designed to offer a fresh perspective on Cambridge University Botanic Garden’s historic Systematic Beds, will open to the public on Saturday (September 22, 2018).

Observation is the cornerstone of all scientific enquiry and plants are full of shapes, patterns, numbers, colours, textures, symmetry, scents and tastes to discover.

Juliet Day

The Rising Path is part of the Garden’s Understanding Plant Diversity Project, a three year project supported by The Monument Trust, which aims to revitalise the contemporary relevance of the Garden’s Systematic Beds for researchers, teachers and visitors by exploring how plant diversity is identified and organised – the science of plant taxonomy.

Professor Beverley Glover, Director of the Botanic Garden, said: “We are thrilled to be opening the Rising Path to the public. This innovative structure is a key part of an ongoing project to re-examine, re-interpret and re-display our Systematic Beds which will help visitors, students and scientists to understand more about plants, how they are related, and why this is so important for science.” 

Rising Path Project Manger, Juliet Day, said: “Observation is the cornerstone of all scientific enquiry and plants are full of shapes, patterns, numbers, colours, textures, symmetry, scents and tastes to discover. We have developed the Rising Path and created interpretation displays to encourage visitors of all ages to explore the Systematic Beds and enjoy looking more closely at plants.”

The Rising Path leads to a viewing platform where visitors will be able to see the full extent and layout of the Systematic Beds from a 3m high vantage point. Rest points along the path highlight the innovations that allowed plants to leave the water for life on land and to proliferate into the 400,000 species known today. 

At ground level, an interpretation hub expands on the twin educational purpose of the Systematic Beds: how to look at plants, and how to organise those plants in order to provide a robust framework for effective research and communication. 

Added Glover “For thousands of years, humans have grouped plants into families based on observation made using the naked eye. Today, scientists also study the DNA of plants to determine relationships. Changes in scientific understanding pose interesting challenges for a Garden that seeks to be both guardian of a historic landscape and relevant to contemporary research.” 

The Systematic Beds occupy nearly three acres of CUBG and are of global heritage significance. They were designed in 1845 by CUBG’s first Curator, Andrew Murray, and their design uniquely translates the leading botanic text book of the time by Augustin de Candolle into a display on the ground to represent and teach plant taxonomy - the science of identifying and classifying plant species. 

The Understanding Plant Diversity project, which includes the Rising Path, seeks to ensure the Systematic Beds remain a useful teaching tool in the modern world. When renovation is complete in 2019, the Systematic Beds will represent 1,600 plant species belonging to about 78 families dispersed across 119 beds.


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