The Linnaean Gardens of Uppsala

Sweden's oldest botanic garden

Hortus Upsaliensis The Botanical Garden of Uppsala University is the oldest in Sweden. It was founded in 1655 by the polymath Olof Rudbeck the elder, Professor of Medicine. At that time the garden was located in central Uppsala, in the Svartbäcken district near the Fyrisån river (figure). In the garden the medical students could learn botany and study medicinal plants. By the end of the 17th century there were more than 1800 plant species in the garden, many grown for the first time in Sweden – for example the potato.

Olof Rudbeck’s botanic garden was badly damaged during the great Uppsala fire of 1702. As the university lacked resources to restore it, the garden entered a period of decline.

In 1741 Carl Linnaeus was appointed as Director of the, by then, dilapidated botanic garden. He transformed it into one of the foremost gardens in the world. Through his world-wide network of contacts he was able to bring in thousands of plant species. They were grown in a particular order determined by Linnaeus, according to his Sexual System or in ecological plantings. Today, Linnaeus’s botanic garden has been reconstructed according to his original plan from 1745. It is now called the Linnaeus Garden and is a living memorial to the great naturalist.

The Castle Garden becomes the new botanical garden

The Botanical Garden was previously situated east of the Fyris river, where the Linnaeus Garden is today. The gardens' location close to the river led to many floodings. By the late 1700s, the gardens had also become overcrowded. Carl Peter Thunberg, an apostle of Linnaeus and successor, was able to convince Gustaf III of Sweden to donate the gardens of Uppsala Castle to the university in 1787, to be used as Botanical Garden.

Hortus regius, slottsträdgården, 1679, ritad av Olof Rudbeck den äldre.

By 1807, all of the plants had been moved to the new gardens opened on 21 May, 100 years after Linneaus' birth. The castle gardens were designed in the Baroque style by architect Carl Hårleman in the 1750s. The king also donated money for the construction of the Linnaeanum, the building which houses the Botanical Garden's Orangery.  

Both the Baroque Garden and the Linnaeanum are listed property. According to Gustav III's deed of donation, the Baroque Garden must be kept in the same condition as when it was donated. An extensive restoration in accordance with Hårleman's original plans was carried out in 1974. 

Ritning över Botaniska trädgårdenDuring the 19th and 20th centuries, the Botanical Gardens have been extended a number of times and new, more functional greenhouses have been added. The gardens' primary purpose is still to serve the research and academic communities. Over time, it has become ever more open to the public and taken on more purposes, such as the conservation of biodiversity. The gardens also function today as a living plant museum with more than 100,000 visitors each year.  

Read more about some important historical figures (directors and head gardeners) in the Botanical Garden from the 17th century until present.

The garden by the River Fyris after Linnaeus

After the relocation of the Botanical Garden the old garden by the River Fyris were neglected and transformed into park land and potatoe-patches. The Orangery was reconstructed and used as club house for students at the University and the Director Musices moved into the directors lodge.

The old garden was in a state of neglect for more than 100 years, until 1917, when the Swedish Linnaeus Society was founded and began to reconstruct the Linnaeus´s garden. The restoration was possible thanks to Linnaeus´s detailed plant lists and garden maps. The old residence has been turned into a museum and is still managed by the Swedish Linnaeus Society. The responsibility for the garden has been handed over to Uppsala University.

Carl Linnaeus' Summer Residence – Hammarby

In 1758 Linnaeus bought two small estates: Sävja and Hammarby. During their first summers at Hammarby the Linnaeuses lived in the detached west wing. The main building at Hammarby was built in 1762. Linnaeus also had a small, and reasonably fireproof, museum built at Hammarby where he kept his extensive natural history collections.

Linnaeus recieved many visitors at Hammarby. Inside or outside the museum, he lectured from a peculiar lecture stool, "plugghästen" (Sw. plugga - to study, häst - horse).

After Linnaeus´ death in 1778 his wife Sara Lisa remained at Hammarby for many years together with two of their daughters. The Swedish State bought the houses and the park from his descendants in 1879 and it is now managed by Uppsala University.

Directors and head gardners

A botanic garden is a place for both botany and horticulture, developed and maintained through the collaboration of botanists and gardeners. The Directorship of the Botanical Garden  was initially included in one of the University’s professorships; as the number of professors increased over the years, and their subject areas became more narrowly specialised, the Directorship was associated in turn to the professorships of medicine, botany and systematic botany. Since 1977 the garden has been a separate institution with its own Director. In 1983 the Director’s remit was expanded to include responsibility for the Linnaeus Garden and Linnaeus’ Hammarby.

Read more about previous directors.