A botanic garden is distinguished from all other types of garden or park by engaging in scientific research and education. These academic roles date back to mid-16th century Italy, where the monasteries established gardens specifically designed to provide facilities for teaching and research on medicinal plants.
At Leicester, research has been carried out in the Botany (now Biology) Department since 1921, when the fore-runner of the University (the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College) was founded. Use of the Garden for research purposes, however, dates primarily from 1947 when it transferred from its former University Road site to the present one in Oadby.
Initiated by the late Professor Tom Tutin, the main research focus at the Botanic Garden has been on floristics (cataloguing and describing the species in a geographical region) and taxonomy (classification). The Department of Biology and the Botanic Garden have a long tradition in these areas and have developed an international reputation for their work, as is evidenced by the publications shown here.
Such floristic and taxonomic studies contribute to the ongoing international effort to document the plant diversity of the world and answer those most basic of questions: "How many plant species are there, where do they grow and what are their evolutionary relationships?" Reliable answers to these and related questions to do with speciation and gene flow are only now beginning to emerge, partly as a result of the work conducted here at Leicester with the advent of modern techniques of DNA analysis.