The St Andrews Botanic Garden is getting an update, with a new feature called The Tangled Bank. The proposed remodel is estimated to cost £300,00, and is being funded by the University of St Andrews, the Friends of St Andrews Botanic Gardens, NatureScot, and St Andrews Community Trust.
The Tangled Bank, which is named after a Darwin quote, will replicate Fife’s most endangered habitats, creating a space to study the relations, interactions, and origins of various plant species.
The current Botanic Garden site was acquired in the early 1960s, although the Botanic Garden’s roots extend as far back as 1889, when the Original Botanic Garden was founded by the University of St Andrews. In 1987, the Botanic Garden was leased to the Fife Council, and in 2014, the St Andrews Botanic Garden Trust was created, and immediately assumed full responsibility for the garden, although they continue to enjoy support both from the University of St Andrews and Fife Council.
Today, the Garden boasts an impressive collection of about 8,000 plant species, with the addition of the Tangled Bank poised to provide even more insight into Fife’s unique ecological composition.
Plans include a boardwalk which winds through sand dunes, an education centre and research laboratories, and improvements to the glasshouses.
Taking part in three stages, the Botanic Garden will first create habitats which mimic the local plant communities of Fife, then decommission its three glasshouses with an emphasis on reducing the carbon footprint of the Garden. And it is estimated that in spring 2022, building restoration will begin once funds have been secured.
Sustainability is at the heart of the Garden’s plans. There is to be a new focus on reducing water consumption, pest control procedures, and the overall carbon footprint of the garden by more than 50%. The centerpiece of this shift towards sustainability is the Temperate Glasshouse, which will be transformed into a pergola, with the glass being removed entirely.
The director of the St Andrews Botanic Gardens, Harry Watkins, said, “Business as usual simply can’t continue. We need to find new ways to conserve plants and teach communities about what we can do in response to the biodiversity crisis.
“The Tangled Bank will show the world’s politicians what kind of action is needed in response to COP15 and COP26 and how bold we need to be.
“As a small charity, St Andrews Botanic Garden can be nimble, and hopefully The Tangled Bank will inspire bigger organisations to take similar steps.
“These changes are transformational for the garden and will mean that we can do so much more for the community. We are encouraging groups and individuals to get involved in the events we are running, and to get in touch if they’d like to talk more about what we’re doing.”
Extending across three acres, the Tangled Bank also provides unique opportunities to research. The Botanic Garden has promised research in a variety of formats, including conferences, videos, academic journals, and more, regarding important issues surrounding biodiversity, particularly in Fife.
Research will specifically focus on relationships between plants, sources of variation in plants and species, and how to use research as a stepping stone to action.
Currently the St Andrews Botanic Garden is in the midst of working on a 12 year Biodiversity Plan which prioritizes climates similar to those of the St Andrews area, and seeks to improve global conditions by addressing ecological conservation challenges.