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Botanical Garden Fosters Native Plants of Puebla

The garden is divided into ten sections, including a quercetum (oak plantation) near the main building.Few nations on the planet boast greater biodiversity than Mexico, which ranks fifth worldwide in total number of species and first in cacti and pines. The state of Puebla alone is home to an impressive array of flora, both wild and cultivated, according to a new book in Spanish co-authored by the experts who run the BUAP Botanical Garden.

Plants of Economic Importance in the State of Puebla describes more than 850 edible, medicinal, and ornamental species, providing their common and scientific names, where to find them, and how they’re typically used. The book is designed, like the botanical garden, to provide an accessible means of appreciating and learning more about some of Puebla’s most valuable natural resources.

Agriculture is so economically and historically vital to Puebla that the state’s coat of arms includes a hand holding a plant with farmland in the background. The industry today accounts for 8 percent of the state economy. Indeed, one cannot help but notice the abundance of cornfields flanking the rural stretches of highway that lead visitors from both the Puebla and Mexico City airports to the center of Angelopolis. However, due to rapid growth in and around the capital over the past two decades, urban green space is increasingly hard to find. The botancial garden, which occupies 25 acres of land on the BUAP’s University City campus in the San Manuel neighborhood, doubles as one of the largest public parks in the city.

Did you know that tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica) can be used not only to make delicious salsas, but also to treat tonsillitis, cough, and bladder infections?

A large lake at the BUAP Botanical Garden attracts various species of birds.Founded in 1987, the botanical garden features hundreds of species — trees, grasses, succulents, wildflowers, and more — from areas around the state. Its overall mission includes the study, conservation, and promotion of native and new varieties of plants that have horticultural and economic-development potential. To this end, the garden is divided into ten distinct sections, from a semi-arid zone to a seasonal wetland, each based on the geography, ecology, taxonomy, and use of the species growing therein. The site also features a small butterfly garden and a sizable lake, which attracts some 90 species of birds throughout the year.

All visitors are welcome to take a leisurely self-guided tour by following the paths that wind through the garden. Groups of 10 to 40 people can book docent-led tours (in English or Spanish), during which they’ll learn about the site, the scientific and common names of myriad flowers, plants, and trees, and their significance as food, medicine and potions, crafts and dyes, and religious symbols.

The Jardín Botánico Universario is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free. Tours and workshops offered to groups for a fee. The garden is located on the BUAP’s CU campus in Colonia San Manuel near the 24 Sur entrance. For more information, call (222) 229-5500, ext. 7032 or 7030.

Copies of the book Plantas de importancia económica en el estado de Puebla, by Maricela Rodríguez Acosta, Allen Coombes, and Alberto Jiménez Merino, are available for purchase (350 pesos each) at the garden and Gandhi bookstores in limited quantities. All proceeds support continued work in the field.

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