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History of the Buitenzorg gardens Teysmann Scheffer Three separate branches Horticultural garden Mountain garden Botanical garden Dr. Treub Lady Raffles’ monument Pandanus with aerial roots Cyrtostachys renda Stelecho-karpus Urostigma Brazilian palms Laboratories and offices Number of men employed Scientific strangers.

Among the twenty or thirty tropical gardens established in the colonial possessions of the various European Powers, three stand pre-eminent those of Calcutta, the Peradenia Gardens in Ceylon, and the Dutch gardens at Buitenzorg. It is only natural that a people so distinguished for horticulture as the Dutch should have turned to account the floral wealth of the Malay Archipelago, perhaps the richest botanical hunting-ground in the world. The Buitenzorg gardens, however, owe their present celebrity more to individual energy than to Government patronage.

Originally established in 1819, in a corner of the park surrounding the residence of the Governor-General, the exigencies of colonial finance subsequently required the withdrawal of almost all the provision originally made, and only a sum sufficient to support a single European gardener was left. The salary of this single official was taken from the funds appropriated to the maintenance of the park. It was to this post that J. E. Teysmann was appointed in 1830. Educated at one of the primary schools in Holland, and originally employed as an under-gardener, he had in that capacity accompanied Governor Van den Bosch to Java. Like our own Moffat (also an under-gardener), Teysmann rose by his energy and devotion to “great honour,” and, half a century later, received a remarkable proof of the esteem in which he was held in the scientific world, consisting of an album, within which were inscribed the signatures of the donors one hundred famous naturalists, ranging from Darwen to Candolle, the Genevan. It bore the inscription

“Celeberrimo indefessoque J. E. Teysmann cum dimidium per
saeculum Archipelagi indici thesaurum botanicum exploravit,
mirantes collegae.”

During the period that the gardens ceased to exist as an independent institution 1830 to 1868 Teysmann continued to search throughout the islands of the Archipelago for rare and undiscovered plants with which to enrich them. He also published catalogues embodying the discoveries he had made, and finally arranged the plants and trees upon an excellent system, in which they are grouped in accordance with their natural relationships.

In 1868 the gardens once more became a public institution, with a curator and a recognized revenue. The new curator was Dr. Scheffer, of Utrecht, who in 1876 founded, in addition to the botanical gardens, a school of agriculture with a garden attached to it. This useful institution was subsequently suppressed by the Government, but the garden still survives alongside its parent at Buitenzorg. Dr. Scheffer died in 1880, when only thirty-six years of age. He was succeeded by the present curator, Dr. Treub.

The Dutch Government gardens in Java, known to the scientific world as the Hortus Bogoriensis, and to the official as the Nederlands Plantentuin te Buitenzorg, contain three separate branches the botanical gardens, a horticultural garden, and a mountain garden. Of these, the last is situated at some distance from the town, on the slopes of Mount Gede. It occupies seventy-five acres of land at an altitude of between 4000 and 5000 feet, and is provided with a staff of ten natives working under a European gardener. I was told that, while all European, Australian, and Japanese flowers would grow there, it was found impossible to cultivate the fruits of such temperate regions, owing to the difficulty experienced in securing the necessary period of rest. I have since heard that in Fiji the difficulty is overcome by exposing the roots for some months, and thus preventing the sap from rising. Why not adopt this method in Java?

The horticultural garden adjoins the botanical gardens, and occupies forty acres. As already mentioned, it owes its existence to Dr. Scheffer, and it is, of course, devoted to strictly practical objects. Consequently, everything is arranged in such a manner as to make the most of the space. All the paths are at right angles or parallel to each other, and the garden generally is laid out with monotonous regularity. Yet no small part of the success of the Government gardens as an institution depends upon the produce of this department. It has for many years enabled the Government to distribute gratuitously the seeds and plants required for various colonial enterprises. Within its trim beds are contained tea and coffee plants, sugar-canes, caoutchouc and gutta-percha trees, Erythroxylon coca for cocaine, and trees producing tannin and oils. Various medicinal plants are also to be found here, and such as afford useful nourishment for cattle. The necessary labour for this garden is supplied by a head-gardener and seventy natives.

The botanical gardens occupy ninety acres of the southern corner of the park, which itself forms their northern limit. On the east they are bounded by the river Tjiliwong, and on the west and south by the high-road from Batavia. Through the centre there runs the famous Allee des Kanaries (Canarium commune), the boughs of which form an arched roof one hundred feet from the ground. Leading right and left from this central avenue run other smaller avenues, roads, and paths, conducting to the different plots in which the various families of plants are contained, in accordance with the system of arrangement introduced by Teysmann. Some of these paths, especially those leading to the lower level by the river-bank, are paved with pebbles after the manner of the “cobbled” streets of our English villages. To this Mr. Wallace, in his “Malay Archipelago,” takes exception on the score of discomfort. I was assured, however, that they are a necessary evil, and that the heavy rains to which Buitenzorg was liable, made it necessary to have the firmest kind of pathway in such places. At either end of the avenue there are lodges, but no gates, and the gardens are left open day and night without any fear of injury. This fortunate condition of affairs is not unusual in Java, but in this case security is partly ensured by the proximity of a large military force and the frequent presence of the Governor-General.

As Dr. Treub had kindly offered to act as my guide, I found my way one morning to his house at the early hour of half-past seven. The residence provided for the curator is situated on the left side of the southern entrance. The deep verandah is furnished with some brilliant groups of flowers. Opening on to it is a little morning-room hung with some elegant engravings reproductions of Salon pictures. Here I found Dr. Treub waiting for me.

After a few moments’ conversation we left the house and passed down the avenue. Some hundred yards onwards, to the right, there is a stone monument interesting to Englishmen. It consists of a circular roof supported by pillars, protecting a funereal urn placed upon a square pedestal. On the pedestal the following inscription is engraved:

“Sacred to the memory of Olivia Mariamne, wife of Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant-Governor of Java and its dependencies, who died at Buitenzorg on the 26th of November, 1814.”

Although the site of this monument is more humble than that of Sir Thomas Raffles’ statue at Singapore, it is scarcely less interesting; and the repair and preservation of the stonework is secured by a special clause in the treaty of cession. I think it was just here that Dr. Treub turned away from the Canary Avenue, and, taking one of the paths to the right, led me forward towards the river.

I had asked him if he would point out any trees specially worthy of being sketched, and he had very readily acceded to my request. After we had walked a few minutes, however, he said

“I am in a difficulty; I do not know what to show you. We have some most curious plants in the garden, but there is nothing remarkable about them externally. I suppose you want something with a cachet for the public?”

I said he was quite right in his supposition. What I wanted was something of interest from a picturesque point of view to the general public.

“There,” he said, pointing to a tall tree with a growth and foliage of no distinct character, “is a strychnine tree; from the berries of that tree we get nux vomica; but if you drew that, they would say, ’Why, it is an apple-tree; it is not worth going to the tropics to see that.’”

By this time we had almost reached the banks of the Tjiliwong, and again turning to the right, where grew the pandans, “There,” he said, “is a tree with aerial roots. It comes from the Nicobar Islands, just north-west of Sumatra. I think it is about twenty-eight feet in height. No, the roots do not contribute to its nourishment; they are useless but very curious.” From the pandans we passed to the palms. First we noticed a specimen of comparatively low growth, with its leaves springing from the ground like the leaves of a primrose Ladoicea Sechellarum. It bore, I was told, the largest fruit and the largest leaves of any known tree, the former being two, and the latter ten, feet in diameter. “Unfortunately, there is no fruit on it,” said Dr. Treub, “but you can see that in any museum. You see, the stems of the leaves are as hard as iron.” Indeed, they gave quite a metallic ring as he drove the ferrule of his walking stick against them. A few steps further brought us to a tree which Dr. Treub said had no special characteristics, but was a perfect natural specimen of the palm family. It stood about forty feet in height, and was furnished with foliage which hung gracefully suspended from a straight tapering stem. Then at the next corner, where its beauty showed to advantage, we came upon a group of red-stemmed palms from the little island of Banka. A fortnight later I was anchored off Mentok, the capital of that island, in a Dutch mail boat; but at this time I had no knowledge of the habitat of this fair tree nor, indeed, had I seen it before, although a few weeks afterwards I found two fine specimens growing on either side of the entrance of a private house at Singapore. It needs an expert to describe so rare a combination of brilliant colours and graceful form. Mr. Forbes, the naturalist, in his account of his “Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago,” tells how he passed down through “plots of amaryllideae, iris, and other water-loving plants” in this quarter of the garden; and how he found the “glory” of “the richest palmetum in the world the Cyrtostachys renda, whose long bright scarlet leaf-sheaths and flower-spathes, and its red fruit and deep yellow inflorescence hanging side by side, at once arrest the eye.”

From this point we again ascended to the higher level of the garden by a path paved with pebbles and cut into steps. Then “faring on our way,” we reached the division marked Anonaceae, and there my eye came upon a sight which rivalled in wonder the golden bough of the sixth AEneid which the doves of Venus showed to AEneas:

“Tollunt se céleres, liquidumque per aera lapsae,
Sedibus optatis geminae super arbore sidunt,
Discolor unde auri per ramos aura refulsit.”

In this case the “contrasting golden beam” shone not from the foliage, but, stranger still, from the black trunk of a tall tree. It was a stelecho-karpus, or stem-flowering tree. The trunk from which the deep saffron flowers sprang was about one foot and three inches in diameter, and the flowers themselves were much like bunches of primroses, only darker in colour and divested of their leaves. Unlike AEneas, we passed forward without any floral spoils for, indeed, we had no such awkward personage as Charon to reckon with among dark, cool, tree-arched avenues of figs and banyans to the northern limit. On our way we paused once to notice a fine “sacred fig” of India (urostigma), a tree with remarkably angular boughs; and again when Dr. Treub stopped, and, pointing to the frangipane blossom, said, “That is the flower of religion in India, being sacred to Buddha; the Malays here call it the ‘flower of the dead.’” In this quarter the trees were larger and of more robust growth, and the appearance of the garden more natural to my Northern eyes. A sudden turn brought us to a projecting spur, on which was built a little summer-house commanding a view of the surrounding country. Far away the double mountain Pangerango and Gede rose blue and shadowy, with just a wreath of smoke showing from the volcanic peak. In the middle ground stretched masses of tropical forests edging the bright green terraces of the savah land. At our feet the river ran bubbling and fretting over the brown stones.

In returning we skirted the central lake, and, having crossed the avenue, passed down a broad roadway lined with rich foliage. This was so arranged as to afford a view of Mount Salak to the southern windows of the Governor-General’s residence. It was one of the many glimpses which appeared of a sheer height of dark azure contrasted with the bright green of palm or bamboo. Leaving this, we passed down an avenue of Brazilian palms, running parallel to the Canary Avenue. Each tree was almost too faultlessly perfect in its graceful foliage and smooth rounded stem, and of apparently equal height. Round the surfaces of these stems the green leaves and purple flowers of convolvuli clung. A few yards beyond the termination of this avenue we left the path and entered a wilderness of climbing plants. Carefully advancing (for there were arms stretched out on every side ready to pluck flesh or clothing), we took our stand opposite the coils of a huge climbing palm.

“There are branches,” said Dr. Treub, “from this plant six hundred feet in length; it passes, as you see, from tree to tree.”

On reaching the path, I found that we had completed the circuit of the gardens, and were once more in the neighbourhood of the nurseries and buildings. These latter are numerous and extensive, for the curator of the Buitenzorg gardens aims not only at obtaining a wide range of vegetable products, and thus serving the needs of colonial industries, but also at accomplishing researches in the pathology and physiology of plants. In this way Dr. Treub expects a useful development for the tropical gardens generally, which he considers have only lately become genuine centres of scientific research. At Buitenzorg, in addition to a museum containing an extensive herbarium and a botanical library of over five thousand volumes, there are numerous laboratories and offices accommodating the curator and his three assistants, and draughtsmen, who are competent to employ the methods of photography and lithography in reproducing the forms of plants. Under the direction of this staff there are employed a number of natives, including three Malays with special botanical knowledge, a head-gardener, and nine under-gardeners, and scarcely less than a hundred coolies. Altogether there are nine thousand distinct species of plants contained in the gardens. On our way to the strangers’ laboratory we passed a number of trellis-work houses, with creepers trained over their sides and roofs. “You see,” said Dr. Treub, with a smile, “we have cool houses here instead of hot houses. They are for forest plants accustomed to coolness and shelter.”

I was especially asked to notice the completeness of the arrangements made for scientific visitors. The laboratory is seventy-five feet in length, and opposite each of the ten windows (five on either side) is placed a table fitted with optical instruments and other necessary means of botanical research. It is also provided with a small library and herbarium. In reference to the strangers’ laboratory, Dr. Treub remarked that he specially desired to see Englishmen avail themselves of it. German and French savants had come to Buitenzorg to study, but no Englishmen as yet.

I visited these gardens on several occasions during my short stay at Buitenzorg, and often wandered among the dark tree-arched paths and avenues. On each occasion I found some new beauty. One day it was a lakelet covered with great water-plants; another day a gorgeous plot of orchids, or a fresh piece of landscape. These subsequent visits, however, lacked that which gave so great a charm to my first walk through the gardens the spontaneous courtesy and graceful learning of the curator.