In 2003 the Silesian Botanical Garden Union of Associations was founded – the entity formally responsible for the construction of the garden. A crucial moment came in 2006, when, by a decision of the Ministry of the Environment, the Union of Associations was given permission to open the Silesian Botanical Garden. For all these years many people contributed to the creation of this place which would become the green island within the industrial and urbanized Silesia; an institution which would attempt not only to protect nature, but to be a meeting place and an environment suitable for exchanging ideas on all subjects: culture, philosophy, social issues … Finally, the idea was to create a friendly and open space for everyone, who simply needs a rest or a break from the fast-paced city life.
The mission of the Silesian Botanical Garden is active biodiversity conservation through the cultivation of rare and endangered species of plants and their transfer from cultivated areas to their proper habitats, the preservation of valuable yet diminishing field and meadow cultures and old varieties of fruit trees. The mission of the garden is realized through the creation of a space for the conservation of Silesia’s biodiversity and of all of the temperate climatic zone for the good of contemporary and future generations; the presentation of plant collections which enable the public to learn about protected species; scientific research; active participation in the propagation of pro-ecological attitudes and information on the methods of biodiversity conservation amongst the inhabitants of the region. These actions have been supported from the very beginning of the garden’s existence by The Voivodeship Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Katowice.
Other important activities of the SiBG are ecological and environmental educational initiatives for children, youth and adults. Now the team of the garden can proudly say that these goals were met and the Silesian Botanical Garden, which now has an area of almost 100 ha, has secured its place in the landscape of Upper Silesia and in the minds of its inhabitants.
In 2010 a Botanical Garden in Radzionkow was formed as part of the Union of Associations. It is located on Ksieza Gora hill, has an area of ca. 16 ha and consists of phytosociologically diverse areas. There are oak-hornbeam forests, riparian forests, aqueous habitats and reed beds, mesic, psammophilic and xerothermic meadows as well as farmlands and wastelands on sites of former limestone exploration. This enables the creation of plant collections corresponding to various habitats which in turn makes it possible to maintain ex situ collection complexes of endangered, rare and protected species from diverse natural habitats.
Silesian Seed Bank
In 2011 a regional seed bank was established at the Silesian Botanical Garden. Its main purpose is the storage of seeds of rare and disappearing species which are important for the Silesian Voivodeship and neighbouring voivodeships. In addition, the seed bank collects seeds of plants typical for selected types of habitats. They are often not threatened by extinction, but are important for a proper functioning of valuable and protected plant communities which they inhabit. The seeds gathered in the bank will be used for species reintroduction, habitat reconstruction and population reinforcement. In future it is planned that seeds of old varieties of arable plants, which were cultivated in Silesia in the past, shall be stored too.
The Department of Habitat Collections was established in order to create and sustain preservation collections of rare plants species and rare and valuable plant communities. The first field collection of the department was the collection of xerothermic plants, established in 2011. Another project related to ex situ conservation of plant communities was the transference of ca. 2 ha of plant communities from the area of the Katowice International Airport in Pyrzowice and more than a dozen of protected plant species. The plants and communities were endangered by a scheduled investment, the construction of a new runway for the airport.
Ecological and environmental education
The Silesian Botanical Garden is an institution providing non-formal education. It means that it is not obliged to teach core curricula, although the purpose of some educational programs (especially „Encounters with Nature at SiBG”, „Plants and Climate”, „SiBG School of Natural Science Experiment” and laboratory workshops) is to supplement formal education. The main aim of education activities of the Silesian Botanical Garden is the creation of right attitudes and informing how important nature is in human life and how important human activities are for the nature. The participation in workshops makes it possible to integrate knowledge taught at school which is often chaotically distributed among school subjects. It is also important to give the students an opportunity to watch the phenomena taught at school in nature and thus relate the knowledge to real life. Then, this knowledge becomes important for the children and motivates them for action.
The concept of adaptation seems to be crucial to understand two opposite but dangerous phenomena concerning the loss of biodiversity in natural ecosystems. The first one is related to invasive alien plant species which cause direct threat to local biodiversity. The second is the loss of indigenous biodiversity caused mainly by human activity and climate change. To fulfil the main task of the contemporary botanical gardens – protection of endangered plant species – in a very rapidly changing environment, it is essential to understand the reasons why some species in the same time became rare and endangered and some became invasive. In our studies we use the qualitative method, namely morphological analysis, to find out which features of the environment are crucial for the adaptation of certain species, how can we influence the environment to make it more friendly for the local biodiversity and more resistant against invasive alien plant species.
Silesian Ecological Calendar
The Silesian Ecological Calendar entitled „Climate – Human – Environment” is a suite of ten festivities selected to be diverse in scope and at the same time to raise key regional and global environmental issues. The project was created as an answer to demand for broadly defined ecological education and the existing disparity between formal ecological education and everyday practice of ecological attitudes. Many techniques of encouragement to pro-environment actions of children, youth and older people were employed during the realization of the project. During each of the festivities outdoor events are organized aiming at families. They include a number of pro-ecological activities, such as a children’s play area, outdoor games for youth, exhibitions, workshops, concerts, handicrafts bazaar, eco-bazar with certified food and the like. There is a series of popular-science lectures that features specialists, NGOs and institutions dealing with environmental issues, as well as local government officials, foresters, clergy, scientists, students and other interested persons.
Maintenance, staff, support
The Silesian Botanical Garden in Mikołów is a newly established institution still under development. The maintenance of the garden is based on the budget of the Union of Associations and the funds acquired from regional and national environmental agencies. The development of the garden is based on the financial and organizational support from the City Mikolów and funds from the Regional Operational Programme of the Silesian Voivodeship, which is co-funded by the European Union.
The plant collections are maintained by full-time curators, gardeners and field workers as well as part-time employees and seasonal workers. Every year we enlarge and develop one or two chosen collections in order to increase its attractiveness for visitors and to lower the costs of its maintenance (to increase efficiency of the collection).
The Silesian Botanical Garden in Mikolów is a constantly developing institution. There are two main projects which will be realized in the close future. The first one (see the chapter on the garden) occupies about 10 hectares. It consists of few new collections, namely a terrace garden, a collection of water plants, a wet meadow with a wooden walkway, a collection of grasses, a flowering meadow, a renaissance garden, an ericarium, an arboretum, an orchard with about 300 apple varieties and a vegetable garden. All collections are connected by paths; there are also garden benches and three garden shelters with nice sights on different parts of the garden. This part is still under development, but from 2016 onwards it will be open for public 6 days a week from Tuesday do Sunday.
The second new section will be developed on the area of 56 hectares and it will consist of about 20 habitat collections designed as a landscape park with adjunctive recreational functions (golf course, bike roads, walking paths). For this part of the Silesian Botanical Garden a new Masterplan is now under development. We plan to start with establishment of the first collections in 2016 together with a development of golf course infrastructure. In this part of the garden we try to implement the idea of synergies between economic, social and environmental aspects. The first part of the garden (economic I – 9 holes golf course) should be launched in 2017 and the next one (economic II – +9 holes golf course) in 2019. Between 2016 and 2025 we intend to establish habitat collections (environmental functions) and social functions (paths, education, recreation, etc.).