The garden in the 19th century

In 1797, a chair for natural history (botany) was established at the medical faculty of the recently founded University of Münster. The practical medical doctor Dr. Franz Wernekinck (1764 - 1839) was appointed to this chair. In the absence of any teaching- and illustrative material, he searched for a suitable location for a Hortus Botanicus. The residence garden of the prince-bishop behind the castle was considered an ideal place for this. Baron von Stein, at the time the highest government official and representative of Prussia in Westphalia, supported the project and in 1803 a decree ordered the construction of a botanical garden.

Many initiatives and concepts for the new garden go back to its director, Prof. Dr. Wernekinck. The first greenhouses were built as early as 1804. From the very beginning, the garden was conceived as a teaching and research garden. However, the garden suffered from financial problems again and again, not only at the beginning of its existence,  but also in the following years. These had to be partially counterbalanced by an active trade with plants, with an obvious negative impact on the primary responsibilities of the garden. The first existential crisis came in 1806 with the occupation of Westphalia by French troops. Further political changes after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the fundamental restructuring of the university led to a change of direction in the Botanical Garden, where from now on mainly native plants had to be cultivated.

After Wernekinck, the garden was subject to frequent changes in its management. Fortunately, this problem was mitigated by the long employment time of gardener Bernhard Revermann (whose role was comparable to that of a Technical Director today), who brought continuity to the garden for over 50 years from 1817 - 1869. He also is considered the driving force behind the publication of a first seed catalogue in 1827. Revermann was also responsible for supervising the entire castle park, including the old in the moat and a commercial tree nursery. The orangery, which is a protected historical building today, was also built during this period in 1840.

Garden map 1882
© Uni MS
Post card 1880
© BG Münster

Prof. Dr. Theodor Nitschke (1834 - 1883) was the first botanist to take over the management of the Botanical Garden in 1867. Thanks to him, a new palm house was built in 1878. As a first in the garden’s history, he established intensive public relations activities and achieved, among other things, that the active plant trade was reduced. Meanwhile, Hugo Heidenreich 1871 (- 1911, later royal garden inspector), had taken over the position of the gardener that previously had been occupied by Revermann jun. for only a short time. He was especially interested in the Alpinum.

As Nitschke's successor, Prof. Dr. Oskar Brefeld took over the management of the Botanical Garden in 1884. In 1887/88 he succeeded in having a small lecture hall built behind the present Bromelia house, which had already been planned earlier and which was later converted into a gardener's flat and today serves again as a seminar room. His term of office also saw the construction of the new building of the Botanical Institute on the south side of the Botanical Garden, although this had little effect on the size of the garden.

1900 to 1980s

post card 1900
© BG Münster

Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Zopf was the successor of Brefeld in 1899 as Director of the Institute and Director of the Botanical Garden. After his early death in 1909, the famous botanist and rediscoverer of Mendel's rules (together with de Vries and v. Tschermak-Seysenegg), Prof. Dr. Carl Erich Correns (1864 - 1933), took over Zopf’s business in Münster. He used the Botanical Garden intensively for his crossing experiments. After five years in Münster, he was appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm-Institute in Berlin. In 1913 he brought the gardener Georg Ludewig to the Botanical Garden, who remained at the Botanical Garden in his role as an appointed garden inspector until after the end of the Second World War. His term of office saw all the problems that the two world wars and the inflation period brought with them. Nevertheless, Prof. Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Benecke (1868 - 1946), who had been appointed to Münster in 1915, was an extraordinarily productive collaborator in the further development and redesign of the Botanical Garden. The university paid tribute to these achievements by attaching head reliefs of the two to the tropical greenhouse that was newly built in 1935 and still exist today. Benecke and his successor in office in 1935, Prof. Dr. Walter Mevius (1893 - 1975), had to deal with plans for the relocation of the Botanical Garden, but these plans were not realized.

Post card 1929
© BG Münster
Farmer garden BG Muenster
© de Lamor-Sellés Schneider

If the damages of the 1st World War in the Botanical Gardens are more due to the lack of money, towards the end of the 2nd World War there will be a total destruction of the greenhouses, the roof of the orangery and the entire infrastructure, such as heating and irrigation, as well as severe devastation due to direct war effects in the garden area. The result was the loss of almost all hothouse plants. Thanks to the selfless efforts of Ludewig in particular, some particularly valuable plants such as the Cycas can be saved. After the end of the war, courses had to be held in the Palm House and the Orangery, since the Botanical Institute was completely destroyed in 1944.

By 1949, five greenhouses had already been rebuilt and made accessible to the public. This rapid rebuilding and further renovation of the Botanical Garden is associated with the names of Professor Dr. Siegfried Strugger (1906 - 1961) and head inspector Walter Stephan (who worked in the garden from 1947 - 1960). For the first time, ecological aspects are taken into account with the creation of characteristic landscape types such as heath, moor and dune in the Botanical Garden. It is thanks to both of them that in 1952 the garden almost returned to its pre-war state. Even the more than 200-year-old orange trees had survived the war and were bearing fruit again.

Master gardener and technician Hans-Dieter Oberdieck (who worked in the garden from 1960 to 1988) was particularly interested in the succulent collection of the Botanical Garden due to his experience with South Africa. Since the establishment of a professorship for Plant Systematics at the Botanical Institute in 1974, the respective holders of this positio have been involved in the development of the Botanical Garden, in addition to the institute directors (institute director Prof. Dr. Erwin Latzko from 1977 to 1989). Prof. Dr. Herbert Hurka (from 1974 to 1982 in Münster) redesigned the plant system and his successor, Prof. Dr. Focke Albers (since 1984 in Münster), contributed significantly to the establishment of the farmer´s garden (1984).

1990s to now

Tactile and scent garden BG Muenster
© T. Albers

In 1988, Oberdieck was followed by Dipl.-Geogr., Dipl.-Ing. (FH) for landscape management Herbert Voigt as technical manager of the Botanical Garden. Due to the change in the administrative structures of the university, Prof. Dr. Paul Tudzynski, Prof. Dr. Engelbert Weis and Prof. Dr. Bernd Gerhardt are subsequently elected managing directors of the Institute of Botany and the Botanical Garden. During this time, more emphasis was put on ecology and natural habitats. The opening of a touch and smell garden took place in 1993. A newly built pavilion was built as a visitor centre. The "Fördererkreis Botanischer Garten der Universität Münster e.V.", founded in 1990, made a major contribution to financing the new outdoor areas.

In 1994 Prof. Dr. Focke Albers was elected Director of the Botanical Garden to ensure a better continuity in the management of the Botanical Garden. In the following years, some natural habitats (raised bogs, heath, dunes) were redesigned or supplemented. Since 1996, tropical crops are cultivated for visitors in the Victoria House. In 1998/1999, the outdoor area in front of the tropical house shows the Mediterranean flora and vegetation. The most extensive outdoor restructuring followed in 2001/2002 with the establishment of a new plant system based on the latest research on evolutionary relationships of seed plants. Public relations work raised to a new level with help of Dr. Joachim Röschenbleck (from 2001 to 2016). In 2005, a new area with medicinal plants was established.

Systematic of seed plants
© Albers

As successor to Prof. Dr. Focke Albers, Prof. Dr. Kai Müller from the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity was appointed Executive Director of the Botanical Garden in 2009. Since 2017, Dr. Mirja Hentschel is in charge of coordinating public relations. The intensification of the public relations work was  supported in particular by the rectorate and the Fördererkreis Botanischer. Herbert Voigt was retired in 2017. Since 2018, Dr. Dennise Stefan Bauer administrates the Botanical Garden as scientific curator and technical manager.


LATZKO, E. 1980. Geschichte der Botanik an der Universität Münster. In: Die Universität Münster, 1780 - 1980. 463 - 466. Aschendorff, Münster.

REJEK, Ch. 1988. Aufbau und Bedeutung des systematischen Abteilungen in Botanischen Gärten unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Münsterschen     Botanischen Gartens. Schriftl. Hausarbeit im Rahmen der Ersten Staatsprüfung für das Lehramt für die Sekundarstufe II im Fach Biologie (Arbeitsgruppe Prof. Albers). Münster.

WIERMANN, R. 2003. Der Botanische Garten der Universität Münster. 200 Jahre Geschichte. Landwirtschaftsverlag Münster.

Archive- Botanical Garden of  WWU