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Key collections

Medicinal plants

In the 17th century, medicinal herbs were vital to the city’s health care. Therefore, when the Hortus was founded in 1638, medicinal plants made up the core of the plant collection. In our Snippendaal garden you will still find the species of plants that were used for the education of doctors and pharmacists in the 17th century.

In 1646, Johannes Snippendaal was appointed as prefect (director) of the Hortus Medicus Amsterdam. In that same year he managed to catalogue the entire collection of the Hortus. By the end of that year, he counted 796 different plant species, the majority of which were medicinal plants, but special ornamental plants were also included. By making this list, he wrote the first catalogue of the Hortus Medicus Amsterdam.

The collection you see today is an offical expert collection of the Hortus  in Amsterdam for the National Plant Collection, and called ‘The 17th century pharmacopoeia of Amsterdam’.

South African plants

Ships of the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie; VOC) brought the first South African plants to Amsterdam. Many important ornamental and cut flowers reached Amsterdam from South Africa in this way, including the scented geranium (Pelargonium), Clivia, African lily (Agapanthus), and Gerbera. You will find some of the South African collection in the subtropical section of the Three-climate greenhouse: for example, the Cape ‘Fynbos’ with its ‘suikerbossies’ (Protea) and silver trees (Leucadendron). Species from Namaqualand can be found in the desert section like the Quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma)

De Hortus partners with the Stellenbosch University botanic garden in South Africa. This collaboration considers Cape plants, but there are also many similarities in collections management of both gardens.

Carnivorous plants

For years, the Hortus has had a collection of carnivorous plants. Together with the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, it is currently the official keeper of the expert collection ‘Carnivorous plants’ from the Dutch National Plant Collection. The two gardens cooperate closely in the management and growth of this unique collection.

Carnivorous plants grow in very nutrient-poor environments. In order to obtain enough nutrients, these plants have developed an exceptional characteristic: they catch live insects and digest them. You can find carnivorous plants in the Hortus in swamp-like beds or in special bogs in the subtropical and  tropical part of the Three Climate Greenhouse. The hardy species have been put in a special bed near the tropical greenhouse.



This group of primitive plants evolved more that 300 million years ago – long before the Age of Dinosaurs. Present-day cycad species however, emerged from their ancient ancestors ‘only’ 12 to 5 milion years ago. Today, cycads are on the endangered plant list and protected worldwide. The Hortus contributes to the conservation of cycads by cultivating and propagating the plants and informing the public about the necessity of plant protection. Cycads can be found throughout the Hortus, from the terrace to the greenhouses. The largest and oldest specimens can be found in the monumental Palm Greenhouse, including the more than 300-year-old Eastern Cape Giant Cycad (Encephalartos altensteinii) and the very rare Encephalartos woodii.


You will find palm trees throughout the garden and greenhouses of the Hortus. This will not come as a surprise, as palm trees grow in different climates. Some species are hardy: these can grow in the outdoor garden of the Hortus. However, most of them are in the greenhouses, particularly in the tropical part of the Three Climate Greenhouse.

For Europeans, palms are THE symbol of luxurious holidays on tropical beaches. In many tropical regions, however, the various palm species (2,400 in total) are highly valued by the locals for the fats, fibres, and building materials they supply.

The Oil palm is one of the main sources of vegetable oil in the world. And did you know that rattan chairs are made ​​from palm lianas? At the Hortus we try to show and tell you as much as possible about these different properties of palms. More information on the botany of palms can be read on Palmweb.

Container plants

Container plants are another exper collection of the Hortus. In the past, these plants were grown outside in the summer and brought into ‘an orangery’ in the winter. The tall doors of the Orangery, now a beautiful café, are a reminder of those days. Today, the container plants are moved into several greenhouses during winter. A few examples of our container plants are lemons (Citrus) and the olive (Olea europea).


Some of the trees growing in the Hortus are remarkable because of their age or because they are unusual. In order to highlight these interesting plants, the Hortus laid out a route along 23 of them. Each one has its own story. You will find the name, origin, and age on the information panel at the base of each tree.

For example, hidden in a corner of the Hortus, visitors will discover an enormous Turkish hazel, Corylus colurna, that was planted more than 200 years ago (1795). It is the oldest and largest of its species in The Netherlands. Pictured here, you see the Ginkgo biloba, a tree species that shows a spectacular sight in autumn.

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You can reach us on our general number: +31 20 625 9021