Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of Biology

Späth-Arboretum: The botanical garden of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Pond in the Arboretum
Photo: Heidrun Kostial
In the seventies of the 19th century, Franz Späth (1839 - 1913), owner of "Baumschule Ludwig Späth", which was the world's largest nursery for woody plants around 1900, expanded the gardens of his villa into a magnificent show and experimental garden. Thus an extensive botanical collection of living woody plants, an arboretum (lat. arbor = tree) was created.

The garden director of Berlin, Gustav Meyer, planned the arboretum in the style of an English landscape park with fine terrain modelling, sunken paths and the interplay between groups of trees and open spaces. The plant was largely completed in 1879.

Since 1961 the Späth-Arboretum has been the botanical garden of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and bears its name in honour of its founder Franz Späth.

As part of Humboldt-Universität, the Späth-Arboretum has grown considerably beyond its initial purpose as an exhibition and experimental woody plant park and has become a university botanical garden, whose appearance is still dominated by the historical woody plant collection.

Späth-Arboretum is a university facility that is being intensively used in teaching and research. It is open to the public regularly from April to October.


Aesculus hippocastanum "Umbraculifera"
Photo: Heidrun Kostial
On an area of 3.5 hectares, our living botanical collection comprises about 4000 different and scientifically documented woody and herbaceous plant taxa. The focus is on plants hardy in Berlin's climate. A greenhouse that is not open to the public allows tropical and subtropical plants to be cultivated. The botanical collections of the Späth-Arboretum are distributed among the various collection areas:

Park of woody plants

The collection of trees and shrubs is mainly located in the 32 sections of the 3 ha landscape park and forms the actual arboretum. The masterly design and terrain modeling makes the park appear even more spacious. Especially among the historical parts of the collection the absence of ordering principles reflecting geography or relationship that are typical of botanical gardens still testifies to the origin of the park, which was conceived as a representative arboretum designed according to aesthetic principles.

Rock garden

The rock garden in the Späth-Arboretum was created in 1928/29 as a sunken garden and is home to alpine plants, which find optimal growing conditions here. A special collection of ferns is under construction in parts of the rock garden and on the adjacent beds at the edge of the pond.

Pond and moor

The artificial pond - a former pond was connected to the Heidekampgraben before the construction of the Britz connecting canal - is now fed by rainwater and a deep well. It is a retreat for waterfowl, amphibians, insects and aquatic plants. At its edge there is a small moor.

Systematic section

The systematic section shows the diversity of the plant world in small space (0.5 ha). The planting of the species according to their natural relationships enables students as well as pupils and interested visitors to directly compare morphologies within and among plant families. On the semicircle adjacent to the systematic section are our medicinal and herbal plant beds. These show plants that are important in pharmaceutics and the kitchen. Among them are many aromatic and strikingly flowering plants.


The Arboretum's greenhouse, which is not open to the public, contains a teaching and research collection of tropical and subtropical plants.