Argotti Botanical Gardens
Argotti Botanic Gardens & Resource Centre, which initially started as two separate private gardens, were built in the early 18th century. One was owned by the Knight Don Emmanuel Pinto de Fonseca and the other by Bailiff Ignatius de Argote y Gusman. In 1741, after Pinto’s election to Grandmaster, De Argote purchased Pinto’s part of the garden and annexed it to his own. During the Knights’ period however, a formal botanic garden did not exist here. Argotti’s history as a Botanic Garden is partly connected to a physic garden created in 1674 by the Knights of St John at Fort St Elmo near the Sacra Infermeria. When the British arrived in Malta, the medicinal plants and other botanical specimens were moved from St Elmo to Il-Mall in Floriana under the guidance of the Carmelite monk and Professor of Botany Carolus Giacinto who was appointed Chair of Natural History by the University of Malta in 1805. After Giacinto’s death in 1855, the botanic gardens were relocated from the Mall and other locations in Floriana to Argotti Gardens by Professor Stefano Zerafa who was a Professor of Natural History at the time. Zerafa’s contribution was very significant to the gardens’ botanical assets. Apart from writing the first account on Maltese flora, “Thesaurus of the Flora of the Maltese Islands”, he is most remembered for the discovery and naming of our National Plant, the endemic Cheirolophus crassifolius (Maltese Rock Centaury). The gardens received contributions to the collections by other influential Maltese botanists such as Count Alfred Caruana Gatto and Professor John Borg which resulted in collections of indigenous and Mediterranean flora, cacti and succulents. In 1945, the wife of late Prof. Borg contributed his world-famous private cactus and succulents collection to the University of Malta and is housed at the Argotti. The gardens passed over to the Department of Agriculture in 1973 after 150 years of University tenure. The inner part was returned to the University of Malta in 1996 for rehabilitation. From that point onwards the University has embarked on a number of restoration projects of architectural assets as well as the reorganisation and expansion of the plant collections.