What Is the Chelsea Psychic Garden?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Chelsea Physic Garden is a historic botanical garden in London, England, open to members of the public interested in viewing its collections. It is among the oldest continuously operated botanical garden in the world, and contains a number of rare plant specimens. In addition to being used for public education and outreach, it also plays a role in conservation activities worldwide to preserve unusual plant species. Visitors to London can pay a small fee to view the garden on the days when it is open.

Native plants are cultivated in one of the garden’s planting areas to provide information about flora native to the British Isles.
Native plants are cultivated in one of the garden’s planting areas to provide information about flora native to the British Isles.

This institution was established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Originally it was used for apprentice education, to teach people how to identify plants with medical uses, and over time, the scope of the garden’s operations expanded. It began producing specimens for other scientific institutions in and around London, and embarked on a seed exchange program which continues to the modern day. The seed exchange at the Chelsea Physic Garden allows botanical institutions from around the world to request seeds for cultivation for purposes of genetic diversity and conservation.

Various areas within the garden showcase different collections. These include samples of alpine plants, highly unusual specimens, and poisonous plants. Visitors to the Chelsea Physic Garden can view the collections as well as attending events like lectures, films, and workshops. The organization educates members of the public about botany and conservation topics as well as the history of botany.

An estimated 5,000 specimens grow in the Chelsea Physic Garden. The focus of the organization is on the cultivation of plants with medicinal uses or historic medicinal applications, along with ethnobotanical species used for religious and cultural practices. In addition, the garden hosts rare species and provides a reserve of seeds and other samples of species that may be threatened in the wild. Native plants are also cultivated in one of the garden’s planting areas to provide information about flora native to the British Isles.

Parents of children should be advised that Chelsea Physic Garden policy requires at least one attending adult for every two children, except by special arrangement for school trips. This is due to concerns about risks for children and the collection, as handling some of the plants could be dangerous. The facility is also accessible for people with disabilities, and allows aides or personal care assistants in at no charge when they are accompanying disabled clients. Individuals with specific disability concerns may want to call ahead to make sure they can be met.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have been to the Chelsea garden before and it is beautiful. Not only is it a top notch scientific institution, it also offers visitors some of the most stunning displays of the world's flora to be found anywhere.

I spent a whole day there and could have spent another. They have plants and flowers unlike any that you have ever seen before. Anyone that has even a passing interest in the natural world owes it to themselves to stop by if they are ever in London.

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