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70th anniversary of the Arturo E. Ragonese Botanic Garden

2 November 2017

The event, held in conjunction with the celebration of the National Botanic Gardens Day, consisted of two days full of activities, lectures, exhibitions, music and an emotional tribute to its creator.

The celebration for the 70th anniversary of the Arturo E. Ragonese Botanic Garden (JBAER), took place on October 13th and 14th at its facilities, located within the premises of the National Center for Agricultural Research (CNIA),  of the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), in Hurlingham, Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the participation of authorities, staff and the local community. The event was not only carried out in order to celebrate a new anniversary since its creation, but also, as the researcher Marcela Sánchez said, with the aim of "being able to recognize the contribution of all those who contributed to making the garden such a special place, showing the achievements that were obtained through the various stages lived. " Silvina Lewis, Director of the Biological Resources Institute (IRB) of the Center for Natural Resource Research (CIRN) and on which the Botanical Garden depends upon, added: "The celebration also involved paying tribute to great botanical researchers who integrated the staff of  the IRB, formerly called Institute of Agricultural Botany, which worked together with Ing. Ragonese in various species, many of which are currently growing at the JBAER. In addition, people that made many efforts to revive the Garden and open the same to the community were honored.

During the opening, the participation of all attendees was appreciated, particularly the presence the founder's niece and the goddaughter, Maria Elena Ragonese and Susana Schiel, respectively. Then, the Director of the CIRN, Pablo Mercuri mentioned that these years, "They are not 70 years like in any other Institution, but they are years of great effort to sustain a green space between so many cultural and political swings, something which is not an easy task to carry out. "In addition, he added that this space comprises 27 hectares that are rooted in the CNIA and that much work is being done to constitute it as a reserve that allows its projection for future generations. Finally, he expressed that "all green spaces should be thought of as intergenerational from the point of view of environmental ethicsand the Botanical Garden is also a fundamental player in allowing the CNIA to open to the community and the community interact with the CNIA".

For INTA, and particularly for CIRN, the Botanical Garden is a space of great importance because its collections constitute a technical stock and a reservoir of native and exotic plant germplasm for scientific studies on taxonomy, plant breeding, ecology and phytochemistry. In addition, it constitutes a reserve of the original vegetation: the Pampas grassland and Celtis forest, and the associated fauna, which have been degraded or totally removed in the Great Buenos Aires area. On the other hand, its educational and cultural activities allow a constant link between INTA and its surrounding community, working mainly on awareness, education and environmental care. For several years the JBAER has included courses, guided tours and various events as fundamental tools to raise public awareness about the importance of plants in our lives and the responsibility we have for their conservation and sustainable use.

In these 70 years, the Botanical Garden grew in terms of the richness and extension of its collections, including thematic gardens such as the Grass garden, the cacti and succulent garden, the pond with plants of self-cleaning surfaces and the collection of tropical plants and xerophytes in the glasshouses. Throughout its history, it contributed with the study and the publication of Regional Floras and other taxonomic studies, and on the domestication of native species with ornamental purposes. According to the opinion of Barbara Pidal, Ing. Agr. and Researcher of the Institution, "in this botanical garden in addition to the observation of plant species, the visitor can observe the interactions between animal and plant life in an atypical natural setting within a densely populated region. In fact, the great diversity of plants and animals attracted the interest of INTA professionals, to carry out different academic and educational activities related to the observation / monitoring of birds, butterflies and amphibians, as well as NGO´s such as Aves Argentinas to survey the fauna ".

The program included the participation of the Stable Choir and the Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Municipality, talks about the beginnings and history of the JBAER, the improvement of Salicaceae, presentations of a cultural journalist and historian, INTA's historic and contemporary illustrations, the planting of memorial trees, guided tours of the Garden and an exhibition plant nurseries. A large number of guests participated from Friday to Saturday in the celebration of the Garden, considered an invaluable "green lung" and an urban biological reserve within the Buenos Aires conglomerate.

About the Botanical Garden JBAER

The Agricultural Engineer Arturo Enrique Ragonese (1909-1992) created the "Botanical Garden for the Introduction and Acclimatization of Plants" in the year 1947, as part the initiative for the introduction and exploration of useful plants with the aim of crop improvement, promoted by then National Ministry of Agriculture.

At the end of 1947 began the planting and location of the first living specimens of the Systematic Section and a sector of Phytogeographic Collections and Edaphic Communities were established. As part of the National Center for Agricultural Research, its development was based on programs for the cultivation of crops species. The collections included about 3,500 plant species for different studies on taxonomy, plant breeding, phytochemical analyzes, etc. Later, on the initiative of Ragonese, the elaboration and publication of the "Floras Regionales" (Patagonica, Buenos Aires, Chaqueña, Jujuy and Entre Ríos) began. The plants that served as a base for this work are preserved in the Botanical Garden and in the Herbarium of Wild and Cultivated Plants of the IRB. In parallel, seeds were exchanged with more than 300 gardens around the world through the Index Seminum or Seed Catalog, a venture that was made possible by the work of more than 60 employees, scientists and gardeners.

In 1995, after a period of scarce personnel and budget, a "Project of Reactivation of the Botanical Garden" started, which included the current denomination of "Arturo E. Ragonese" as a posthumous tribute to its creator. At that stage, with the support of the "Investing in Nature" program, an alliance between BGCI, WWF and Earthwatch financed by the HSBC Group, the Living Collection was restored (cleaning, documentation, labeling and incorporation of species) and a Visitor Center was built.

 With the Mission to "Contribute to know, value and conserve plant diversity to improve the quality of life and integrate man to Nature", and the objective of promoting knowledge and valuation of plants through Scientific Research, Environmental Education and the Conservation of Biological Diversity to contribute effectively to the conservation and sustainable use of the environment, the Botanic Garden is an open classroom for the valuation of nature, teaching on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services.

Spanish version:
El Jardín Botánico E. Arturo Ragonese celebra sus 70 años



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