Royal Botanical Garden, Serbithang (RBGS)
The Royal Botanical Garden, Serbithang is the only botanical garden in the country and has a total area of about 32 acres. The foundation stone for the establishment of the Royal Botanical Garden, Serbithang was laid on 26th May, 1999 by Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck to commemorate the silver jubilee celebration of His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo’s golden reign. It was established as an institutional area with living collections of plant diversity found in the country with the following objectives:
- To act as a conservation (ex situ) site for scientific studies.
- To showcase the nation’s floral wealth to visitors.
- To act as educational resources for school children and other users.
- To act as a recreational site for public.
The initial establishment was facilitated through the funding support of BTFEC, where basic infrastructure of the garden was developed. Further, in order to implement activities to achieve its objective, BTFEC provided a 2nd phase grant amounting to Nu. 5.515 million from July 2001 to January 2004. Post-2004, the garden was mainly funded through the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB), with the exception of the Darwin Initiative project implemented from 2004- 2006 to develop capacity of the staff and garden through technical exchange program with Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
Between 2012 and 2013, the Royal Botanical garden formulated and implemented a collaborative project titled “Rescue and restore rare plant species found at Mangdechu Hydro Power Authority (MHPA) project sites” with MHPA amounting to Nu. 175,000.00. This project documented the existing floral diversity of the MHPA project affected sites and rescued selected species from the project affected sites for ex situ conservation at the botanical garden. The collaborative project exemplified the benefits of collaboration between a conservation agency and development partner and subsequently led to the botanical garden receiving funding support to carry out similar activities from Tangsibji Hydro Power Project Authority. Therefore, from January 2014 to June 2017, the botanical garden implemented a project titled “Rescue and rehabilitation of threatened and rare plant species from 118 MW Nikachhu Hydropower project sites for long-term conservation and development of national repository of botanical information”. The project with a total fund
of Nu. 3,607,075.00 was collaborative project between National Biodiversity Centre, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Serbithang and Tangsibji Hydro Energy Limited.
- Serve as the living repository of plant genetic diversity for ex situ conservation and research.
- Serve as a rescue centre for rare and threatened floral species and promote restoration.
- Promote propagation of prioritized native plants species to reduce pressures on collection from the wild and to ensure their sustainable use.
- Provide facilities and services for plant propagation and environmental education.
- Promote regional and international linkages for effective conservation and management of native plant species.
The garden currently has a little over 800 species of native plants in its collections. Some of the basic infrastructure and amenities developed over the last 18 years include access road, footpath, children’s play area and public toilets, greenhouses and nurseries, orchid house and a glass house. The garden is currently managed by four regular full time technical staff with basic taxonomic and horticultural skills, two contract staff and a Curator and supported by 10 Elementary Service Personnel (ESP).
In terms of conservation activities, in addition to living collections management, the garden has also ventured into seed-banking of native trees and shrubs of conservation significance and rescue and restoration of plant species from hydropower projects sites. The wild seed-banking initiative is currently supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation Global Tree Seed Bank Project through Millennium Seed Bank, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, with a total fund of Great Britain Pound (GBP) 59,060.00 spread over three years from 2016 to 2019. Preliminary research on selection and propagation of native ornamental plants is also one of the new initiatives of the botanical garden.
Of recent, the botanical garden has also been involved in publishing plant guide books as well as in discovery and description of new species. Recent publication led by the botanical garden include A Field Guide to Selected Trees, Shrubs and
Herbs of the Tangsibji Hydro Energy Project Area (2017), A Pictorial guide to the Trees and Shrubs of the Royal Botanical Garden, Serbithang (2017) and A Century of New Orchid Records in Bhutan (2017). A new orchid species Spathoglottis jetsuniae N.Gyeltshen, K.Tobgyel & Dalström was also described and named in honor of Her Majesty Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck in 2017.