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Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin - Department of Biology

Living botanical collection

Im Späth-Arboretum der Humboldt-Universität.
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.

This living collection is indispensable for botanical research and teaching at the Institute of Biology. It is also used in public and school environmental education. Interested parties inside and outside the Humboldt University should send enquiries for plant material to arboretum@hu-berlin.de

Large parts of the collection can be searched in our database. Seeds of about 900 accessions are offered to botanical institutions worldwide every year through our seed exchange.


Focus collections

The living botanical collection comprises about 4000 different and scientifically documented woody and herbaceous plant taxa on an area of 3.5 ha. The focus is on plants that are hardy in Berlin's climate. A greenhouse that is not open to the public also allows tropical and subtropical plants to be cultivated.

The unique profile of Späth-Arboretum in the landscape of Germany's botanical gardens results from the proximity of the collection to laboratories and course rooms as well as from its special collections:


Herbst im Späth-Arboretum der Humboldt-Universität.
Photo:Heidrun Kostial

Collection of woody plants (founded 1879)

Parts of the arboretum's collection of trees and shrubs date back to the foundation of the garden. This collection has been and is constantly expanded and adapted in accordance with the requirements of research and teaching and with the aim of preserving the aesthetics of the historical collection.

We are anxious to reintroduce not represented or lost and still available Späthian cultivars and new introductions into the collection. We thank you for any reference to such material from which we can receive seeds or scions.

At present, the collection comprises about 1100 taxa and about 500 horticultural varieties and hybrids of trees, shrubs and lianas.

IDS-PlaketteIn 1998, Späth-Arboretum was awarded the IDS Plaque of Honour of the International Dendrology Society in recognition of its peculiarity with regard to the collection of woody plants and the site's landscape architecture and as a sign of its special worthiness of protection.

Van Hoey Smith, J.R.P. (1999): Presentation of IDS Plaque to the Späth Arboretum - 20 September 1998. - International Dendrology Society Yearbook 1998: 8-11.

Zwei Kapselfrüchte von Buxus braimbridgeorum Köhler aus Cuba. Eine erst 2006 neu beschriebene Art: Köhler, E. (2006) Three new Buxus species (Bucaceae) from Eastern Cuba. Willdenowia 36: 479-489.
Photo:Egon Köhler
Boxwoods (begründet 1963)

This small collection reflects Prof. Egon Köhler's many years of research on the boxwood family (Buxaceae), especially on the Cuban species. It currently contains about 18 taxa as well as 6 horticultural varieties, among them some older accessions from the Späthian period (from 1885) and some rarely cultivated Cuban species.

Köhler, E. (2013) Buxaceae. in: Flora de la Republica de Cuba, Serie A, Vol. 19:1, 124 p.
González Gutiérrez, P.A.; Köhler, E.; Borsch, T. (2013) New species of Buxus (Buxaceae) from northeastern Cuba based on morphological and molecular characters, including some comments on molecular diagnosis. Willdenowia 43: 125-137.
Köhler E., Brückner P. (1989) The genus Buxus (Buxaceae): aspects of its differentiation in space and time. Pl. Syst. Evol. 162: 267-283.



Ausschnitt aus den Farnanzuchten im Späth-Arboretum der Humboldt-Universität.
Photo:Thomas Janßen

Vascular cryptogams (founded 2012)

An extensive collection of ferns, horsetails, spikemosses and clubmosses of the nemoral, boreal, arctic and austral zones is in active development. It is involved in research projects and is continuously expanded through exchange, own cultivation from spores and own collecting activity.

The collection currently comprises about 270 taxa as well as about 20 horticultural varieties and hybrids in 480 accessions. It is characterised by a high proportion of accessions with a documented provenance from the wild (45%) and a high proportion of taxa, that are each represented by several accessions from the wild.



Armeria maritima (Mill.) Willd. (Bleiwurzgewächse, Plumbaginaceae), eine auf trockenen sandigen Böden heimische Wildpflanze.
Photo:Anika Dreilich

Flora of Berlin and Brandenburg (founded 2014)

This young collection is in active development with the medium-term goal of showing three quarters of the flora native to Berlin and Brandenburg after a fundamental redesign of the systematic section. This collection is of didactic importance for academic teaching and public environmental education. It also contains safeguard cultures of species endangered in Berlin or Brandenburg.