The National Botanic Garden - Its Commencement
Washington, July 1, 1850
Among the many improvements now in progress in our city, both of a public and private kind, with great pleasure I witnessed the commencement of a National Botanic Garden. The site selected for that purpose is the handsome square of ground lying between Pennsylvania and Maryland avenues (known as the old Botanic Garden) and separated on its east side from the grounds around the Capitol by a street. This square contains near 12 acres, and will, when graded, be laid out in various compartments adapted to the arrangement and classification of both foreign and indigenous plants and trees, to each of which it is intended to attach a durable table, on which will be painted, in legible characters, the scientific name, then the local one, native country, together with its uses as applicable to the arts, &c., &c.
The ranges of conservatories for the protection of tropical and other tender plants during winter will, when finished, be over 300 feet in length, and the walls of some of these plant structures are already three or four feet above the surface, and towards their completion. Congress has very liberally appropriated $5,000.
The nucleus of the present very large collection of plants (the preservation of which gave rise to the above appropriation) was laid by the roots and seeds brought home by our Exploring Expedition under Capt. Wilkes; since then, however, through the instrumentality of officers of our government, residing or visiting foreign countries in our national vessels, many interesting plants have been added, so that the collection as it now stands, numbers about 11,000 species. From the rapid addition, through the number of plants sent in, and the necessity of occupying the grounds on which the old Green-houses stood, in order that the Patent office could be extended, decided Congress in granting a larger square or space, where the collection could be seen to better advantage, and thereby aid in the beautifying of our city, and at the same time afford space enough to test new esculent fruits and roots, and these, when found worthy of preservation, to be propagated and disseminated [illegible] our wide extended country for the benefit of the many.
Our citizens generally will be gratified to learn that this valuable acquisition in the metropolis is now in rapid progress, under the superintendence of the scientific, experienced and successful gardener, Mr. William D. Brackenridge.