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The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, est. 1816, is the oldest botanic garden and scientific institution in Australia. It is home to an outstanding collection of plants from around the world with a focus on Australia and the South Pacific. The Botanic Garden is set on Sydney Harbour, next to the Opera House. It sits at the heart of the city’s cultural domain of art galleries, museums and performing arts.
The Botanic Garden is surrounded by unfenced botanical parkland known as the Domain, which is accessible to the public 24 hours a day. Its green spaces, playing fields and harbour views play a central role in Sydney’s biggest festivals, celebrations and events and in the recreational, sporting life and physical fitness of the city workers and residents.
It all began in 1788 when Australia’s first farm, Farm Cove, was established by Governor Phillip. In 1816 the Botanic Gardens of Sydney was founded on this site by Governor Macquarie as part of the Governor’s Domain. Charles Fraser was appointed as the first Colonial Botanist in 1817, establishing the Botanic Gardens as the oldest scientific institution in Australia.
The National Herbarium of NSW, housed in the Robert Brown Building and built in 1982, is a major centre for Australian plant research. The extensive collection of over 1.2 million preserved specimens (dating back to plants collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander in 1770) provide reference material for studies of our native plants, their relationships and classification. Research includes field studies, DNA sequencing and scanning electron microscopy. Ecological research involves mapping and describing plant communities and studying factors that affect their survival.
The Herbarium provides a Botanical information service, including plant identifications and a public reference collection for native plant identifications. Open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 1 pm (closed public holidays), phone 02-9231 8155.
The Library houses one of the most extensive collections of botanical, horticultural and ecological books, magazines, videos, photographs and publications, as well as material on related topics. The Library is only available for bona fide research work and appointments should be made with the Librarian, phone 02-9231 8152.
The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney (including the Domain) has free entry. Public access to exhibition spaces is also free.
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Royal Botanic Garden
Located on the eastern edge of the central business district, the Royal Botanic Garden is bounded by Macquarie Street, the Cahill Expressway and Mrs Macquaries Road. Surrounding the Royal Botanic Garden is the open parkland of the Domain.
The National Herbarium of New South Wales is located within the Royal Botanic Garden, on the eastern (Woolloomooloo) side.
Map of the Royal Botanic Garden & Domain
Size of Site: 64 hectares
Size of Botanic Garden: 30 hectares
Size of Domain: 34 hectares
Annual visitation for the Royal Botanic Garden: 3,544,344. People attending concerts and major events in the Domain: 433,482; people using the Domain playing fields for booked sports: 59,300
Number of plant species in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney (including the Domain): 8,900
Plant species in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney: download alphabetical list (at December 2014)
Plant species in the three Botanic Gardens: download alphabetical list (at December 2014)
Number of plant specimens in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney (including the Domain): 67,100
Number of trees in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney (including the Domain): 3,964
Oldest pre-settlement remnant trees in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney: Sydney red gum (Angophora costata (Gaertn.) Britten) (x 2) and forest red gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis Sm.) (x 2, Lawns 28 & 35); swamp oaks (Casuarina glauca Sieber ex Spreng.) (x 4 suckers from original trees, L38, L27 and Domain DL46; southern mahogany (Eucalyptus botryoides sm.) Domain D25d)
Australia’s oldest street trees: swamp mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) (x 3) planted in 1816 along the new Mrs Macquaries Road, Lower Gardens
Oldest collected specimen: Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata), planted 1822, Bed 9 near Creek
Oldest planted trees in the Royal Botanic Garden: hoop pine, giant watergum, both planted c. 1820-28 in the Palm Grove
Number of preserved plant specimens in National Herbarium of NSW: approx. 1.2 million
Oldest collection in the National Herbarium of NSW: dated 1770 was collected by Sir Joseph Banks; East Coast of Australia, Voyage of the Endeavour.
Library collections (figures are approximations): The Daniel Solander Library was founded in 1852 with 26 books (which can still be found in the collection). The oldest work held in the Library is a rare 1550 herbal. The Library has now grown to encompass the following collections:
Photo library collections: The photos are of plants for scientific records and for the assessment and classification of NSW plant communities. They also record plants, animals, people, places, events and artworks in the history of the Gardens and Domain. The collection contains over 100,000 analogue images and over 100,000 digital images.
Garden artworks collections (sculpture): Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney: 36; the Domain: 22 (sets of sculptures e.g. Four Seasons, Two Sphinxes are counted as one).
Wildlife: Wildlife includes sulphur-crested cockatoo, white ibis, brush-tailed possum
The Sydney Domain was set aside as the Governor’s Demesne in 1788 by the first Governor of Australia, Captain Arthur Phillip. It included the three-hectare site of the penal colony’s first farm. Some areas were subsequently leased for farm lots and mills.
In 1816, Governor Lachlan Macquarie opened the Demesne and the new garden within it to ‘the respectable class of people’. Leases were terminated.
In 1831, new roads and paths were constructed and the Domain was opened to the general public, becoming, as it is today, a place of the people.
In the 1870s, soap box oratory began at Speaker’s Corner and has never ceased.
The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, was established within the grounds of the Domain by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The traditional foundation date is 13 June 1816, the day on which Mrs Macquaries Road around the Domain and new Garden was completed.
The Garden includes the site of the first farm in Australia (1788). It also encompasses the site of the first International Exhibition Centre, the Garden Palace, that burned down in 1882.
See also History of the Royal Botanic Garden & Domain.
Traditional owners & occupants
The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney has Aboriginal communities - the Cadigal - whose ancestors were the original occupants and who are recognised as the traditional owners. Farm Cove, known as Wogganmagule, was a food gathering and ceremonial ground.
State heritage listing
The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney and the Domain are listed on the State Heritage Register (SHR 1070, gazetted 2 April 1999).
Historical significance: The second oldest botanic garden in the southern hemisphere, the only older one being Rio de Janeiro. It contains many important structures and memorials from early Colonial times when it formed part of the Governor’s Domain (Westacott and Broadbent 1976).
Aesthetic significance: Within the Garden there is a beautiful and varied collection of statuary, fountains, monuments, and structures representative of Victorian cultural attainments and garden embellishments. Magnificent gardens on the site of Australia’s first farm, now providing beauty and peace in contrast to the city skyline (Westacott and Broadbent 1976).
Research potential: It contains an important botanical collection vital for education and research (Westacott and Broadbent 1976).
Go to The Garden & Domain
Go to Visitor Information for information on Planning your visit
Many areas within the Royal Botanic Garden and the Domain are available for weddings, birthdays, special and corporate events, filming and photography, sporting events, meetings and conferences. These include the restaurants and kiosks, Maiden Theatre, Lion Gate Lodge, Rathborne Lodge, Sydney Tropical Centre, garden pavilions and various lawn areas. For information on charges and requirements go to Visitor Information and Venues & weddings.
Our scientists undertake research in plant systematics, ecology and horticulture.
Systematics research studies and describes plant species and establishes their evolutionary relationships through classification studies and DNA ‘fingerprinting’. Current research covers more than 20 plant families, and includes many of potential commercial, horticultural and phytochemical value.
Ecological research studies, maps and describes the plant communities of NSW to provide advice to land-use agencies and help decision-making on natural resource management.
Horticultural research studies the culture, propagation, pathology and selection of plants. Current research focuses on propagation of the Wollemi Pine, waratahs, flannel flowers and aroids; and on biological control of weeds, pests and diseases.
For further information on research go to Conservation & research.
The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust
The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, celebrated as one of the world’s greatest botanic garden organisations, internationally respected for its work in science, conservation and horticulture, safeguarding places of learning and pleasure for all.
As a living organisation, we connect people with plants through imaginative horticulture, beautiful landscapes, transformative learning experiences and cultural events.
As a leading contributor and custodian of botanical knowledge and collections throughout Australasia, we will share our discoveries and be at the forefront of international plant conservation.
The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act 1980 defines the Trust’s objectives as to:
The Trust is required to give particular emphasis to encouraging and advancing the study of systematic botany and plant conservation.
The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust is a statutory body in the State Government of NSW established by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act 1980. It is responsible for the management and stewardship of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney and the Domain; the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan; and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah. The Trust also manages the National Herbarium of NSW, the NSW Seedbank and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Exhibition Centre at each of the three sites, respectively.
View Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust Organisation chart (May 2014).
The Trust Board reports directly to the New South Wales Minister for the Environment and has responsibility for all Trust assets and programs.
The Chairperson of the Trust is Ken Boundy. Other Trustees are Maria Atkinson, Geoff Bailey, Ian Breedon, Diana Eilert, Sandra Hook and Dr Robyn McConchie.
Staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust are employed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Click here for more information on the Trust, Trustees & Trust Committees.
The annual recurrent expenditure budget for 2013-14 is $46 million, of which $20.4million, or approximately 45 per cent, is provided by the NSW State Government. In addition, $9.1 million in capital funding is budgeted to be received in the 2013-14 financial year.
The Trust also generates revenue through grants, donations, contributions, sales of goods and services and other revenue. In 2013-14 the total earned revenue budget is approximately $21.3 million.
The main sources of non-Government revenue are: parking at Sydney, lease revenue, hire of facilities, retail sales, grants and contributions. Within grants and contributions are grants from State and Federal Government, donations and sponsorships.
The Office of Environment and Heritage provides corporate shared services to the Trust. This includes information technology support, transactional processing for accounts payable, payroll, recruitment and human resource advice.
In 2013-2014 668 volunteers in assisted the Gardens in 42 programs. The Trust and Foundation and Friends Volunteers contributed 48,672 hours volunteer work which equates to well over a million dollars benefit to the Gardens.
Trust Volunteers assist in:
Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens volunteers:
Corporate Volunteers assist in:
Click here for more information on volunteers.
The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust
Science & Conservation
The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
The Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan
The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah
Total FTE* staff across the organisation = 261.12
*All staffing figures are Full Time Equivalent (FTE). In 2011-12 there were 24 Honorary Research Associates and 27 supervised students working with the Science and Conservation branch.