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Meet the Loneliest Plant in the World

New technology brings the Botanic Gardens to life

The world’s loneliest male.  Vicious plants that can eat sheep.  The philosopher’s stone (where Wittgenstein sat and thought).  And the shrub that inspired Thomas Moore’s famous melody, ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ . . .

These are just some of  over 30 ‘short stories’ featured in three new audio tours and a smartphone app for the National Botanic Gardens.  They include some of the gardens’ hidden treasures, its oldest plants, famous glasshouses, and one of the world’s great plant hunters, and come complete with a recording of ‘The Last Rose of Summer’.

The tours turn a fresh spotlight on what is one of Ireland’s most popular and most enduring attractions.  The Gardens were begun in Glasnevin during Dublin’s great Georgian era, in 1795, and the new project was launched in the gardens today [Tuesday, April 5, 2011] by one of the great champions of Georgian Dublin, Senator David Norris.

The audio tours (which you download, like a podcast) and the app, are free, and allow visitors to explore the gardens at their own pace.  Visitors who don’t have an MP3 player or smart phone are also catered for, with an hour’s highlights available on a handy souvenir audio player.

Director of the National Botanic Gardens, Dr Matthew Jebb, said: “Every plant in our collection has a story to tell, and I’m delighted that we have been able to use these new technologies to bring these stories to every visitor.  It is central to our mission to share the importance of plants with our visitors both local and international and I hope that this is the start of many more interactive ways to highlight the value of plants to humanity.”

The stories in the new tours are written and narrated by Matthew Jebb and science writer and broadcaster Mary Mulvihill of Ingenious Ireland, as well as the gardens’ orchid expert Brendan Sayers, and wildlife guide Glynn Anderson.

The audio tours were conceived by Mary Mulvihill, who had made a radio series about the Gardens for RTE in 2007.  “I knew there were lots of great stories in the gardens, and an audio tour is the perfect way to tell them to a wider audience, but in a way that doesn’t intrude at all on the plants or the historic gardens.  And the beauty of our audio tours is that you don’t even have to be in Dublin– you can enjoy these from the comfort of your own home, wherever you are.”

The tours were made with a grant from the Department of Tourism, Culture & Sport under its Cultural Technology Grant Scheme last year, which allows the download and app to be made available free. Visitors can access the tours on www.ingeniousireland.ie and  www.botanicgardens.ie

More information:

The three tours: there are three tours in the new collection, each with 40 minutes of audio commentary.  The Green tour explores the famous glasshouse and palm house, and is suitable for cold or wet days; the Yellow tour is an easy stroll around the gardens historic highlights; and the Red tour is an extended walk to the river, for wildlife, roses and even some philosophy.

The app: is now available free from the Android app store; the Apple version follows shortly.

Ingenious Ireland: a new company specialising in unusual audio tours and hidden heritage, its next project is a ‘blood and guts’ walking tour of Dublin’s medical history.  Other tours include a look inside the Royal Irish Academy and its hidden history on Dawson Street; a geology walking tour of Dublin city; and the history, landscape and heritage of the Hill of Tara, all available to download at  www.ingeniousireland.ie

The National Botanic Gardens: established at Glasnevin in 1795 by the Royal Dublin Society, on the site of a Georgian estate and villa, the gardens have been run by the State since 1878.  Since 2003 the Gardens have been managed and run by the Office of Public Works.  They cover nearly 20 hectares, with over 17,000 different species and cultivars, including many rare and endangered specimens, along with thousands of dried and pressed plants in the ‘herbarium’.   They are home to Teagasc’s  horticultural college, and are always a pleasant place for visitors www.botanicgardens.ie

ENDS / April 5, 2011

2 Responses to Meet the Loneliest Plant in the World

  1. J Hughes April 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Hi, I have been looking forwards to these tours and have them downloaded and ready to go on my ipod! One suggestion to make them even better… It would be very helpful if you could more thoroughly tag all the tracks with Album Name, Artist etc. so they sort themselves out properly in iTunes. When I imported them to iTunes they were a little all over the place and I had to manually find the tracks by referring to the PDFs and then amend track names and add ‘Album’ names so they grouped up correctly. Some of the Green tracks were not labelled or numbered with the usual “xx-Green-…” track names. iTunes wouldn’t import tracks 02, 03, and 04 of the Yellow tour (not sure why…, they won’t play either).
    Well done on launching these, they’re a brilliant idea. J

    • mary August 5, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

      Hello Josephine,
      Thanks, and so glad you think these are a brilliant idea!
      I’ll look at the track names again, to see why you had that trouble, and apologies for any inconvenience. Also, if you still can’t play the three yellow tracks, drop me an e-mail on hello@ingeniousireland.ie and I’ll get fresh versions to you.