History of Royal Botanic Gardens

The history of the Royal Botanic Gardens dates as far back as 1371 when King Wickramabahu iii ascended the throne and kept court at Peradeniya near Mahaweli Ganga.Later, in the reign of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe from 1747 to 1780 this was made a Royal Garden and from 1780-1798 King Rajadhi Rajasinghe  resided therein ,where a temporary residence was erected for him.

A Vihara and dagoba were built in the reign of king Wimala Dharma which was improved by king Rajadhi Rajasinghe. The Vihara and dagoba were destroyed by the English when they occupied Kandy. The famous historical battle of Gannoruwa between Rajasinghe II and the Portuguese was fought on the Nothern side of the river.

In 1810 under the advice of Sir Joseph Banks a garden named Kew was opened in Slave Island and Mr.William Kerr was appointed as its Superintendent.In 1813 the garden was moved to Kalutara for the reception of economic plants  which could be cultivated there on a larger scale than was possible at Slave Island. Kerr died in 1814 and under the rule of his successor Mr.Alexander Moon this Garden was finally moved to Peradeniya in 1821 as it was found to be favorable and better adapted for the proposed Botanic establishment. The transfer of exotics from the Kalutara Garden was made by successive Superintendents at least up to 1843.

During Moon’s superintendence the opening of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya can be said to have commenced though at first only the South West portion of the Gardens was cleared and opened and it was mostly planted with cinnamon and coffee.Moon Published his “Catalogue of Ceylon plants “ in 1824 in which was given the Botanical and native names of 1127 plants, indigenous to the island. In 1844 Mr.George Gardner was appointed as the Superintendent. He died at Nuwara Eliya in 1849 and was succeeded by Dr.G.H.K.Thwaites who for over over 30 years maintained the Gardens in a high state of efficiency ,added largely to our knowledge of the flora of the island and gave the establishment its world – wide reputation. Botanic Gardens at Hakgala was established its world-wide reputation. Botanic Gardens at Hakgala was established in 1861 for introduction of Cinchona into the island and in 1876 Gampaha Botanic Garden was started for the introduction of Rubber.

Thwaites was succeeded by Dr.Henry Trimen who began the publication of his work,”The Flore of Ceylon” which however was finished by Sir Joseph D.Hooker after Trimen’s death in 1896.In 1896 Trimen was succeeded by Dr.J.C Wills.In the early years his work was mainly directed towards the introduction and acclimatization of useful and ornamental plants but in later years activities developed towards Economic botany and Agriculture in 1912.Mr.H.F.Macmillan who was appointed Curator in 1895,was made the Superintendent of Botanic Gardens in 1912 and Mr.T.H.Parsons the Curator in 1914.During Macmillan’s superintendence the Gardens were improved and extended and his famous work “ A Hand Book of Tropical Planting and Gardening “ was published.Macmillan retired in 1925  and Mr.T.H.Parsons continued as Curator till 1945 contributed a lit to our knowledge on medicinal plants and orchids of Sri Lanka .Mr.D.T.Ekanayake who became the Superintendent in 1971 pioneered the floriculture in Sri Lanka.

Royal Botanic Gardens ,Peradeniya occupy a horse-shoe shaped peninsula around which flowsthe chief river of Sri Lanka,The Mahaweli .The Entrance is upon the Colombo road,about 4000 species.The mean elevation above sea level is about 1,600ft.

Orchid House & Gardens

The Orchid House offers the visitors a captivating display of exotic blooms of Cattleya,Dendrobium,Arachnis ,Oncidium,Phalaenopsis,Vanda and their Hybrids.Around the Orchid House may be seen several hardy tropical orchids including the largest orchid in the world.


Adjoining the Flower Garden is the Fernery.It is beautifully landscaped with intersecting paths and is well shaded by lofty trees draped with climbing vines and creepers.The fern collection includes about 100 indigenous and exotic species.

Great Lawn

Close to Monument Road is the Great Lawn .The most unique feature here is the Java Willow or Java Fig Tree which occupies the center of the lawn like a giant living umbrella.The ground covered by its enormous spread is about 2,500 sq.m.

The Lake

The Lake is situated in South Drive to the left of the Main Entrance .The margin of the Lake is planted with marsh plants.The most noteworthy is the papyrus of the Nile.

Spice Garden

The shady Spice Garden situated on the  right of the Main Entrance has a representative selection including cinnamon – the main spice exported from this country,pepper-the most demanded spice in the world,Cardamom and nutmeg.Some of the oldest nutmeg trees planted in 1840 are still in full bearing.


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