Dry Zone Botanic Gardens - Mirijjawila
Mirijjawila Dry Zone Botanic Gardens (MDBG) are the first botanic gardens in Sri Lanka designed by local experts and the first botanic gardens created after Henarathgoda Botanic Gardens which was established 130 years ago. Dry Zone Botanic Gardens is the largest botanic garden in Sri Lanka in terms of extent and the extent is 300 acres. This is the first botanic gardens in Sri Lanka created to conserve dry zone plants ex-situ. There were several objectives for establishing the Mirijjawila Dry Zone Botanic Gardens, Hambantota.
Placement of the garden
MDBG located in Hambantota District has two entrances; one facing the Colombo - Kataragama new main road and the other the Beragama Road from Sooriyawewa – Hambantota main road. Construction works of the botanic garden was begun 20th July 2006 and it was opened for public in 14th November in 2013 concurrently to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGUM) held in Colombo.
There was a planting ceremony to plant 52 plants by 52 heads of government participated to the CHOGUM around the place called as Great Circle and the planted circle is called as Commonwealth Circle today. There were several objectives for establishing the Mirijjawila Dry Zone Botanic Gardens, Hambantota.
- To conserve dry zone flora ex-situ
- To study dry zone ecosystems and dry zone flora.
- To identify underutilized plant species and promote their use among people in the area.
- To identify suitable plant and plant species for dry zone landscape.
- To identify plant species as well as promote commercial floriculture.
- To contribute to the national economy by promoting local and foreign eco-tourism.
HISTORY OF MIRIJJAWILA DRY ZONE BOTANIC GARDENS
Mirijjawila Dry Zone Botanic Gardens are the first botanic garden established in the dry zone of Sri Lanka after unsuccessful effort to develop a botanic garden in the Anuradhapura district, during the British colonial period between 1883 and 1906. Prof. Siril Wijesundara, former Director General at the Department of National Botanic Gardens and his team selected this location in the dry zone with an area of 300 acres to establish the botanic garden due to two reasons. One reason was the land had been underutilized and covered by thorny scrub forest invaded heavily by invasive plant species. The other reason was the presence of perennial water source which had not been used for any other purpose called “Beragamawila”, near the selected land which could be used to develop the land.
Figure 2: First visit to select a land for Dry Zone Botanic Gardens
The selected land was handed over to Department of National Botanic Gardens by the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka and District Secretariat, Hambantota through a cabinet approval of the Government of Sri Lanka in 2006. Designing of MDBG was initiated on 20th July 2006 by Prof. Siril Wijesundara and his dedicated staff after 130 years from establishment of the previous botanic gardens in Sri Lanka named Henarathgoda Botanic Gardens in 1876 for Rubber cultivation. Selected land was demarcated by the Department of Survey and the basic layout of MDBG was done by the Urban Development Authority. A raw water supply system was established by the National Water Supply & Drainage Board and rehabilitation of three existing small tanks known as Kohombagaswewa, Malitthangaswewa and demataththawewa was carried out by the Department of Irrigation. The tanks thus established remain an iconic feature of the Botanic Gardens, to maintain favorable microclimate and to preserve soil moisture. The main entrance and summer huts with toilets were designed and built by the State Engineering Cooperation (SEC) and graveled internal road network was established by the Southern Provincial Road Development Authority. Initial landscape and planting programs were carried out by the Department of National Botanic Gardens by deploying staff and people recruited on contract basis around the site.
Figure 3: Initial site development to create the botanic garden
elephant dwelling area for a herd of about 40 elephants. The land allocated for the botanic garden was abandoned up to a large extent and only a very small area was being used for Chena and paddy cultivation. Many parts of the abandoned area were invaded profusely by invasive allian species, Opuntiadillenii, Lantana camera and Prosopis juliflora. The vegetation consisted of tree species such as Azadirachta indica, Sapinduse marginatus and Limonia acidissima. Sparsely, shrub species such as Dichrostachys cinerea, Flueggea leucopyrus, Ziziphu soenopolia and Azimatetra cantha were seen; tightly closed together with climbers, Cissus quadrangularis, Cynanchumviminalesub sp. Brunonianum (Sarcostemmabrunonianum), Zanthoxyluma siaticum (Toddaliaasiatica) and Asparagusracemosusetc.commonly. A few kinds of fauna species had also inhabited the land including amphibians, birds, reptile and mammals
PRESENT STATUS OF MIJIJJAWILA DRY ZONE BOTANIC GARDENS
MDBG is managed by the Department of National Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya which comes under the Ministry of Tourism. There are 26 avenues in which a single plant species is planted on both sides of each avenue and MDBG is the only botanic garden which has the largest number of avenues in Sri Lanka. MDBG is the first and only botanic gardens in Sri Lanka which introduced QR codes in plant name boards to facilitate visitors and students to access more plant information such as life form, local distribution, origin and more information of plants other than scientific name, common names and family in Sinhala, Tamil and English. Plant information can be accessed through dzbgh.blogspot.com
How to see the garden
A map showing the most important places is enclosed in this folder.
The map of MDBG shows the shape of a peacock when it turned upside down. Peacocks are common birds in the area. After opening the garden, many improvements for visitor facilities and ex-situ conservation has been implemented. There are three circles along the main road from the Northern entrance to Southern entrance. The first circle is the Great circle as seen in fig. 10 it is a lawn around which Canna flower beds are located. Around the great circle Commonwealth circle is located consisting of 52 trees planted by heads of the governments that participated at the opening ceremony of the 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Convention Hall in Hambantota.
What you can see
visitors are advised to walk round the gardens if they wish to explore the many beautiful places in this very compact garden.
- Rain tree (Samanea saman) Avenue
- When entering through the Northern main entrance of MDBG the main avenue is adorned with Rain tree (Samanea saman) commonly termed “Pare Mara” in Sinhala and two mixed arboreta were established on both sides of the avenue including native tree species of the dry zone. At the end of this avenue, on the left side of the four-way junction a Golden shower tree (Cassia fistula) avenue has been established, while on the right side a Spanish cherry (Mimusops elengi) avenue as well as ahead a Palmyra (Borassus flabellifer) avenue are located. At the four way junction in between the Rain tree and Golden shower tree avenues, a Herbal garden can be seen which contains more than 500 medicinal plants belonging to about 200 species. About 1ha has been allocated for ex-situ conservation of dry zone flora in an arrangement according to the orders depicted by Angiosperm Phylogenetic Group III (APG III) system and is the Student garden.
- Palmyra (Borassusflabellifer) avenue
- Plant collections of Ebony, Fig and Wines have been established in arboreta and an Ornamental plant collection has been established in the field. Foliage plant and Cactus collections have been established inside protected structures. A formal garden was designed adjacent to Maliththangaswewa tank, according to the formal landscape seen at the renowned Versailles Palace garden of France. As per plan main features of the gardens of two circles connected by the main drive were placed on a straight line.
- Great circle and around this Commonwealth circle can be seen
- The second circle is the Plant conservatory in which an internal environment of low temperature and high humidity is maintained with shade nets, humidifiers and opened windows. This Plant conservatory conserves plants and maintains flowering and ornamental plants which cannot grow under prevailing outside climatic conditions. The third circle consists of a Topiary garden which was created mainly using Leucophyllum frutescens, Durantha erecta, Barleria cristata, Conocarpus lancifolius and Ficus benjamina. It consisted of hedges and pruned plants to show different shapes.
- Inside plants of Plant Conservatory
- Cactus house consists of different species of cactus mainly foreign species from Middle East countries. There are Native species such as Euphorbia antiquorum and more exotic species can also be seen.
- Inside of Cactus house
- Each and every road in the botanic gardens is planned to be shady to provide a comfortable environment for walks by visitors. There are 26 avenues with 24 endemic, native and foreign plant species have been established as at present. A Polyalthia avenue has been established along the west boarder of the botanic gardens by alternatively planting Polyalthia plants by the sides of the avenue to make a live wind barrier. Due to its closeness to the Indian Ocean and location in the lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka, wind velocity is high across the botanic gardens and hence this wind barrier mitigates wind damage of plants.
- The Climbers collection consists of various types of climber species especially native to the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Ornamental plant collection includes native and exotic species of flower and foliage plants. All plants in the Ornamental plant collection are arranged in various shapes of beds. Memorial plant collection was established in 2016 to plant trees at special occasions by special visitors. The Orchard has been established to especially plant underutilized native plants of the dry zone. The Southern entrance of MDBG was established in 2017 to facilitate visitors to enter through the Tangalle – Kataragama new road. Parallel to the new office building, an information center and other infrastructure facilities have also been established
- Waterfall and one of two ponds at Southern entrance of MDBG
- A large number of plants which are native to the dry zone of Sri Lanka can be found in MDZBG. These plants are being conserved in 16 sections of mixed arboreta, two systemic arboreta, Medicinal plant garden and Natural shrub lands. There are more than 6500 trees grown in arboreta belong to more than 200 species excluding avenue trees. Plants are grown according to plant families in the systemic arboreta. More than 500 medicinal plants that belong to over 200 species are being conserved in medicinal plant garden. According to a study conducted a few years ago about 45 butterfly species could be seen at the botanic gardens, including an endemic butterfly species Troides darsius which belongs to the genus Papilionidae. According to the national red list in 2012 three of these butterfly species are endangered. 107 bird species have been observed at Maliththangaswewa. Among these species one is endemic and three are endangered. According to a study conducted by Department of wildlife in 2021 about 150 – 200 deer live inside two natural shrub lands inside the botanic gardens. While deer, monkeys, porcupines, rats and peacocks cause damage to plants, wild boar and iguanas damage lawns and beds. Sometimes these damages caused by deer and wild boar can be severe. Natural shrub land of about 4 ha in the middle of the botanic gardens has been preserved to conserve existing flora in the land before creation of the botanic gardens and to show visitors vegetation that previously existed. The other natural shrub land located around the Dry Zone Research Center which is about 14 ha and separated triangular section which is about 6 ha have been preserved to conduct research on dry zone flora and create a dry zone forest model. Initiation of work of the botanic garden was under the leadership of Mr. Sumith Ekanayakewho was the first Officer in Charge (2006 – 2017). Mr. M.G.S. Kumara was the second Officer in Charge (2017 – 2020) and Assistant Director Mr. P.S.K. Palihakkara took over the duties as the Officer in Charge in 2020
- Plant collection of Mirijjawila Dry Zone Botanic Gardens
- MDBG is located in the low land dry zone of Sri Lanka and mean annual rainfall expectancy is less than 500 mm according to the “Agro – ecological regions in Sri Lanka” published by Department of Agriculture in Sri Lanka. Soil is Reddish brown with high amount of gravel in sub soil and terrain is flat. Mid January to March and July to mid of September are major dry periods and July to mid of September is a severe dry period at the botanic gardens. During dry spells lawns of the botanic gardens including lawn in arboreta turn brownish in color. To minimize browning of grasses and prevent drying, adequate watering has to be done. Due to very low rainfall in July and August of 2021, planting was not done in the arboreta however planting was done in all other months according to the annual technical action plan to enrich plant and species diversity. More than 8000 trees are grown in MDBG including over 6500 trees in arboreta and 1500 trees in avenues. Plants are arranged according to plant families in systemic arboreta while plants are mixed in the mixed arboreta. While more than 5500 plants belonging to over 100 species have been grown in the mixed arboreta, more than 1000 plants belong to over 100 species have been grown in the systemic arboreta. Among the 16 sections of the arboreta only nine have been completed and inventoried. They are A, B, C, C1, D, H, I, O and F (i.e. the Medicinal plant garden) while E is the Climber collection. However both F and E also contain a considerable number of trees. Section S is the Orchard collection; R consists of the Ebony collection while section J consists of the Fig collection. Sections S, R and J of the arboreta are to be further developed. The Memorial plant collection is located in section P and section N consisted of the Valley avenue and other landscaping features. Several endangered medicinal species are conserved at the gardens such as Buchanania axillaris (Anacardiaceae) termed “Kiripalu”in Sinhala, Basella alba (Basellaceae) called “Rathunivithi” in Sinhala, Capparis moonii (Capparaceae) termed “Sudu wellangiriya” in Sinhala, Salacia reticulate (Celastraceae) termed “Kothala himbatu” in Sinhala, and Diospyrosebenum (Ebenaceae) called “Kaluwara”in Sinhala Several endemic medicinal plant species are also conserved at the Medicinal plant garden such as Schefflera heterobotrya (Arecaceae) called “Iththa” in Sinhala, Vernonia zeylanica (Asteraceae) termed “Pupulawel” in Sinhala, Cassinebalae (Celastraceae) called “Neralu” in Sinhala, and Argyreia populifolia (Convolulaceae termed “Girithilla” in Sinhala. Diospyros ebenoides (Ebenaceae) termed “Kalukaratiya” in Sinhala is an Endangered Endemic species that can be seen in several arboreta at the MDBG. It can also be found in Dry mixed evergreen forests around MDBG such as in Yala and Lunugamwehera National Parks. Several endemic, native as well as foreign plant species can be found in arboreta and medicinal plant collections. Furthermore 26 avenues consisting of of 24 endemic, native and exotic plant species have been established. These species are shown below. 1. SamaneaSaman – Rain tree 2. Bauhinia racemosa – Bidi leaf tree 3. Cassinebalae–Neralu 4. Monooncoffeoides- Omara 5. Cassia fistula – Indian laburnum, Golden rain tree 6. Mimusopselengi – Bullet wood 7. Coryphaumbraculifera – Talipot palm 8. Pongamiapinnata – Indian beech, Mullikulam tree 9. Borassusflabellifer – Toddy palm, Palmyra palm, Wine palm 10. Monoonlongifolium– False Ashok tree, Mast tree 11. Tamarindusindica – Tamarind, Indian date 12. Azadirachtaindica – Neem, Margosa 13. Salvadorapersica – Toothbrush tree, Mustard tree 14. Euphorbia antiquorum – Antique spurge, Euphorbia of the Ancients 15. Terminaliabellirica - Belleric 16. Ficusbenghalensis – Banyan tree 17. Schleicheraoleosa – Ceylon oak 18. Thespesiapopulnea – Portia tree, Indian tulip tree 19. Peltophorumpterocarpum – Yellow flame, Copper pod, Yellow Poinciana 20. Madhucalongifolia – Honey tree, Mousey mi 21. Pterocarpusmarsupium – Malabar kono, Indian kino 22. Mitragynatubulosa - Helamba 23. Terminaliaarjuna - Arjun 24. Syzygiumcumini – Java plum
For Overseas Tourist
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