Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows
We met our tour guide at 9am today and set out for Sao Paulo Botanical Garden to walk around for a couple hours. Lindsey had tried, tried, and tried once again to make contact with the garden, but had heard very little in response, and so we arrived thinking we were there only to see some pretty sights. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Unbeknownst to us, Lindsey’s emails had beeen heard and we were met by a team of employees who were there to escort us through the garden. Our entourage included Nelson, an administrator in the education department, Rafael, an intern at the garden, and Adib, a seasonal worker who volunteered to be our translator.
The garden is partnered with the Botanical Institute of Sao Paulo, and therefore has a large research component as well as acres of beautifully maintained grounds. Sao Paulo BG was and the Institute were originally created by the state to help preserve the State Park and watershed in the area. The focus of the garden is around conservation and preservation of the natural flora of Sao Paulo and has a very active plant-rescue program to help save plants from construction projects around the state. Most recently they rescued a large group of Cyathea (tree ferns) from a highway construction project, which they replanted near the main entrance for a stunning affect. It is remarkable to see what we call “indoor plants” growing in large quantities outside.
As we continued through the gardens and conservatories, we found ourselves in an ever-growing number of school groups. Nelson explained that there is a kindergarten on the grounds which frequently brings the kids onto the grounds, but also Sao Paulo Botanical Garden hosts over 35,000 children a year for local public schools. Students come to explore and to learn about the different ecosystems in Brazil and how each one is important. At the garden, visitors have the opportunity to explore a çerrado (savanna) ecosystem inside one of the greenhouse, walk on an elevated pathway through a preserved Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Rainforest) and to learn about native orchids, bromeliads, and trees found throughout the entire country. By the end of the morning I think we all had a much better understanding of Brazilian ecology, thanks to Sao Paulo Botanical Garden.
We then said farewell to Nelson and Rafael, and went with Adib to have lunch at the café located on the grounds. After lunch we got permission from the Director of the Garden to go into the research facilities located on the grounds. Though it was summer and many employees were on vacation, we were able to meet with some researchers from the mycology department, the seeds physiology department, and the orchid department. We even got to go into their orchid house, which holds one of the largest collections of orchids in Brazil.
We had originally planned to stay at the garden for only about three hours, but by the time we left it had been 6 hours, and we could have stayed longer for there was more to see.
Our driver picked us up and then we headed off to Parque Ibirapuera, which translates to Rotting Tree Park. This park was built on a swamp and for many years the city could not get trees to grow, they would just rot – hence the name. It was not until they started planted eucalyptus trees to absorb the moisture that the park was fully implemented. Ibirapuera park is now a beautiful public park full of residents running, walking, biking, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors. Our new friend Adib, who agreed to come along with us from the botanical garden, showed us around and made sure that we all got back to our hotel afterwards since our tour guide had to leave before we were ready to go.
It was a wonderful day of walking and enjoying nature. Luckily we weren’t flying out that night since I think we all needed a good night sleep.