Located in Zeytinburnu, Istanbul, the Medical Plants Garden boasts hundreds of different plants that are known for their medicinal properties.
Zeytinburnu Medical Plants Garden is located in the old peninsula of Istanbul, on the European side. Featuring more than 700 plants, it offers visitors a breath of fresh air as well as knowledge about medicinal plants.
The Garden opened to the public in 2005. Tugce Agba, a biologist who has been working there for eight years, says it is spread over 14 decares and has plants in open air, a small zoo, as well as a greenhouse for non-native plants.
According to the book Medicinal Plants Garden, written by Prof. Dr. Kerim Alpınar, Turkey is home to more than 11,000 plants, of which 3,300 are endemic (i.e. native to the country), which is considered a rich heritage.
The plants on display are labeled with their Turkish, English and Latin names, but not much information is given about their specific medicinal use even if you were to scan their QR codes. This is to prevent misuse by visitors, the museum guide pamphlet informs. However, poisonous plants are labeled with a warning sign.
Agba tells TRT World that plant leftovers are used as natural fertilisers and that the caretakers try to avoid synthetic fertilisers and chemicals.
“The best time to visit our garden,” Agba says, “is from May to mid-July, when most of the flowers are in bloom.” Annual plants start to fade after that window, while perennials are as vibrant as ever.
Plants harvested in certain times are first dried, then packed and frozen for a few days, then labelled and kept in drug cupboards. Flowering plants are dried while being pressed, taped onto cardboard, held in the freezer, labelled and kept in herbarium cupboards.
In the seed bank that was formed to contribute to biodiversity, seeds from various plants around the garden are kept as well as seeds received from all over the world.
In the laboratory, scientists examine the morphology and anatomy of plants, make essential oils, produce tinctures, ointments, creams, perfumes, eau de colognes, soaps, make kefir, and prepare plant extracts against pests.
There is a sundial in the garden showing 12 months and 52 weeks of the year. The zoo in the back is kept to familiarise children with household animals and to endear nature to them.
Interested parties can purchase essential oils, honey and kefir from the Garden. The Zeytinburnu Medicinal Plants Garden is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm daily. Groups and schools can call ahead and ask to see the premises while accompanied by a guide.