Queen Máxima opens renovated tropical greenhouse at Leiden's Hortus

On Wednesday 4 September, Queen Máxima opened the renovated tropical greenhouse complex of the Leiden Hortus Botanicus, an event that attracted wide public interest. Thanks to this renovation, the greenhouses are even better equipped for scientific research.

Environmentally friendly pesticides

Paul Keßler, the prefect of the Hortus, told the Queen about the scientific research carried out in the new greenhouse, where two PhD candidates and a number of students are currently working. A Leiden chemist spoke to the Queen about her research into orchids and fruit flies and the environmentally-friendly pesticides she is developing. The Queen received from the daughter of one of the Hortus staff members a very special bouquet, of orchids and carnivorous plants that had been freshly picked in the greenhouse that very morning. A member of staff of the Hortus reassured the Queen that no fingers would be eaten by the plants.

Queen Máxima cutting the green garland, marking the official opening of the tropical greenhouse. (Photo: Petra Sonius)

Queen Máxima cutting the green garland, marking the official opening of the tropical greenhouse. (Photo: Petra Sonius)

Bridge between city and university

In his welcome speech, Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker commented that the Hortus is now better equipped for scientific research and there is also more room for the scientific collections. But the role of the Hortus extends far beyond that of a laboratory for the university, the Rector said. ‘The Hortus links the city with the university. In addition to researchers and students, many visitors come here to admire the botanical garden.’ The renovation was also made possible thanks to the many volunteers and the gifts from Leiden residents and other supporters of the Hortus.

Mahin Ghorbani explaining her research on orchids and fruit flies, and the environmentally friendly pesticides she is developing. (Photo: Petra Sonius)

Mahin Ghorbani explaining her research on orchids and fruit flies, and the environmentally friendly pesticides she is developing. (Photo: Petra Sonius)

Crown on the collaboration

Queen Máxima also paid a visit to the tropical greenhouse housing the giant lily. There she met Hortus staff member Theo Teske, wearing high wading boots and standing in the middle of the pond where he sang an aria by the Italian composer Bellini. Finally, the Queen was presented with a Hortus treasure hunt by a group of children whom she told that she would be delighted to come back with her own children.

Keßler is very pleased with the festive re-opening. ‘This is the crown on our collaboration, the culmination of eighteen months of hard work to finish this beautiful greenhouse. It is the result of an exceptional collaboration between the Hortus, the university, the Faculty of Science, the staff and, of course, the builders.’

Greenhouse manager Rogier van Vugt talking about the teak tree in the renovated tropical greenhouse. (Photo: Petra Sonius)

Greenhouse manager Rogier van Vugt talking about the teak tree in the renovated tropical greenhouse. (Photo: Petra Sonius)

Oldest botanical garden

The Leiden Hortus, which has been part of Leiden University since 1590, is the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands. It is one of the few academic gardens where scientific research is carried out to this day and where new plants are still being cultivated. Leiden University began a renovation of the monumental greenhouse complex in April 2012. The entrance greenhouse was raised and a footbridge was created so that visitors can now view the tropical jungle from above. Another novelty is the balcony where guided tours of the greenhouses begin.

High monumental value

Sustainable and energy-efficient solutions were used in the course of the renovations, including fitting insulated glazing and adding an enclosed porch. The greenhouse complex houses interior elements with a high monumental value, such as tile floors and slate stairs. Thanks to the renovation, these details have been restored to their former glory.

(4 September 2013)

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Last Modified: 05-09-2013