Chelsea Physic Garden is one of Britain's oldest botanical gardens, a
beautiful piece of living history with a unique collection of more than
5,000 medicinal and unusual plants.
The term "physic" meant of
natural origin rather than spiritual as in metaphysical. Early physicians and apothecaries depended
on plants for many of their medicines and cures. In order to
teach new practitioners the difference between the
beneficial plants and similar poisonous species, "physic
gardens" were established.
first such site was in Italy in 1543 and the Chelsea Physic Garden
was established in London in 1673. Only the garden in
preceded it. The four acre site on the banks of the River
Thames provides a microclimate conducive to cultivation of
many tender species of plants.
In 1722, the owner of the grounds signed a
deed of covenant which granted a lease in perpetuity for the
price of 5 pounds a year. That amount is still paid each
years to the heirs of that owner, a Mr. Sloane.
Carl von Linne (Linnaeus), the great Swedish botanist, made
several visits to the Garden in the 1730s. In the Historical
Walk you can follow the Garden's own history, with plants
introduced into cultivation by notable botanists, such as
William Hudson, William Curtis,
Sir Joseph Banks and
Fortune, who have been connected with the Garden over the