Sweden's oldest botanic garden

Hortus Upsaliensis according to the design of Olof Rudbeck the elder, as published in Atlantica 1675.
Hortus Upsaliensis according to the design
of Olof Rudbeck the elder, as published
in Atlantica 1675. 

The Botanical Garden of Uppsala University is the oldest in Sweden. It was founded in 1655 by the polymath Olof Rudbeck the elder, Professor of Medicine. At that time the garden was located in central Uppsala, in the Svartbäcken district near the Fyrisån river (figure). In the garden the medical students could learn botany and study medicinal plants. By the end of the 17th century there were more than 1800 plant species in the garden, many grown for the first time in Sweden – for example the potato.

Olof Rudbeck’s botanic garden was badly damaged during the great Uppsala fire of 1702. As the university lacked resources to restore it, the garden entered a period of decline.

In 1741 Carl Linnaeus was appointed as Director of the, by then, dilapidated botanic garden. He transformed it into one of the foremost gardens in the world. Through his world-wide network of contacts he was able to bring in thousands of plant species. They were grown in a particular order determined by Linnaeus, according to his Sexual System or in ecological plantings. Today, Linnaeus’ botanic garden has been reconstructed according to his original plan from 1745. It is now called the Linnaeus Garden and is a living memorial to the great naturalist.

The Castle Garden becomes the new botanical garden

The Botanical Garden was previously situated east of the Fyris river, where the Linnaeus Garden is today. The gardens' location close to the river led to many floods. By the late 1700s, the gardens had also become overcrowded. Carl Peter Thunberg, an apostle of Linnaeus and successor, was able to convince Gustaf III of Sweden to donate the gardens of Uppsala Castle to the university in 1787, to be used as Botanical Garden.

Hortus regius, the castle garden, 1679, as drawn by Olof Rudbeck the elder.
Hortus regius, the castle garden, 1679, as drawn by Olof Rudbeck the elder.

By 1807, all of the plants had been moved to the new gardens opened on 21 May, 100 years after Linnaeus' birth. The castle gardens were designed in the Baroque style by architect Carl Hårleman in the 1750s. The king also donated money for the construction of the Linneanum, the building which houses the Botanical Garden's Orangery.  

Both the Baroque Garden and the Linneanum are listed property. According to Gustav III's deed of donation, the Baroque Garden must be kept in the same condition as when it was donated. An extensive restoration in accordance with Hårleman's original plans was carried out in 1974. 

The Baroque Garden in Uppsala, drawn and planned by Carl Hårleman in 1744.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Botanical Gardens have been extended a number of times and new, more functional greenhouses have been added. The gardens' primary purpose is still to serve the research and academic communities. Over time, it has become ever more open to the public and taken on more purposes, such as the conservation of biodiversity. The gardens also function today as a living plant museum with more than 100,000 visitors each year.  

Some famous people from the history of the Linnaeus Garden

The Botanical Garden has had several prominent and famous directors: Carl Peter Thunberg was head of the garden during the move from what is now The Linnaeus Garden.

The Botanical Garden has also benefited from the expertise of outstanding head gardeners.

Last modified: 2023-08-14