COLONEL WILLIAM LIGHT INTENDED HIS PLANNED CITY to have a “botanical garden”. But the Adelaide Botanic Garden wasn’t established until 1854, after a public appeal to governor Henry Young. Officially opened in 1857, the garden's design was influenced by the royal gardens at Kew, England, and Versailles, France.
One of the garden's most influential 19th Century directors was the botanist Dr Richard Moritz Schomburgk, brother of noted German naturalist Robert Schomburgk.
Richard Moritz Schomburgk was a major advocate for forest reserves in the increasingly denuded South Australian countryside. Dr Schomburgk's successor was another German, Dr M. W. H. Holtze, who made the gardens more attractive to the public – a novel concept at that time.
The garden’s palm, or tropical, house is a Victorian glasshouse imported from Bremen, Germany, in 1875. Other features include the national rose trial garden – a first in Australia – where roses are tested for Australian climates.
The award-winning Australian Bicentenary conservatory, designed by local architect Guy Maron, is the largest single span conservatory in the southern hemisphere. In 2012, tropical plants were removed from the Conservatory due to rising power costs.
To cut reliance on potable water from the River Murray, a wetlands system holds stormwater diverted from First Creek.
The 2.6 hectare site also features interpretive signage, tiered garden beds showcasing aquatic plants and three large ponds with reed beds supporting a range of native wildlife.