Monday, 19 May 2014

Flowers in the desert

A new Botanic Garden is being created near Muscat, the capital of Oman. A project of staggering proportions, It aims to display the entire flora of the Sultanate, including its native orchids such as Epipactis, Eulophia, Habenaria, Nervilia and Eulophia guineensis.

The garden will be developed to grow display plants and trees in their natural habitat and aims to have 1,200 floral species and the natural habitats of Oman across an area of approximately 420 ha.

The project includes the construction of two climate controlled biomes with a total area of 17,000 square metres, as well as entry gates, garages, workshops, train stations, a mosque, an educational centre, facility buildings, extensive habitats and sundry buildings.

The Oman Botanic Garden is situated at Al Khod, some 40 kilometres from the capital Muscat. Despite its reputation as a desert, as seen by the NASA satellite shot below, it is amazing to discover that the country is home to more than 1200 species of plants, including 80 endemics.

In early 2008, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) education officer Sarah Kneebone took up a new postion at the Oman Botanic Garden. The Garden plans to open in the next few years, and aims to cherish and conserve the plants and ethnobotanical heritage of Oman.

As changing social systems, overgrazing, habitat loss and climate change put plants and habitats at risk, the Oman Botanic Garden hopes to help counteract this loss by promoting behaviour changes that will revitalise traditions and conserve the environment.

The project comprises an orientation centre, research and field studies centres (with accommodation for 60 students), five external habitats, five biomes with habitats from the mountains and southern Oman (the extremely diverse Dhofar region), a heritage village to house live demonstrations and workshops on the uses of plants, cafes, shops, and four classrooms.

The nursery is now functional (with 51,500 plants of 120 species), and foundations are being dug for the orientation centre. The plan is to open in the next few years.

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