This area, located in front of the main building, just beyond the entrance gate on via Irnerio, includes woody plants widely cultivated in European Botanical Gardens. The collection of gymnosperms is very interesting and includes plants belonging to the genus Abies, Araucaria, Cephalotaxus, Ginkgo, Metasequoia, Picea, Pinus and Taxus. In addition, there are shrubs and herbaceous plants with beautiful and exuberant blossoms.
In the east section of the Front Garden the following trees are of particular interest:
Yew (Taxus baccata L.)
Yew is a dioecious evergreen tree up to 20 m tall, distributed throughout Europe except the east and the extreme north. Grown as an ornamental plant for its dark green foliage and scarlet berry-like fake fruit called aril, its wood was highly regarded, especially in the Middle Ages, for the manufacture of bows. Yews are often credited with extraordinary longevity (allegedly 4000-5000 year-old trees in Clwyd, Wales) they may live for many hundreds of years. Branches and leaves are toxic, as well as seeds, though bird-dispersed, the aril being harmless.
Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu et W. C. Cheng)
A deciduous conifer tree, up to 45 m tall, Dawn Redwood had long been known only from its fossil record and was considered to be extinct until a few living specimens were discovered in 1945 by Chinese botanists in Szechuan Province, China. The first seeds were collected in 1947, and sown in China and North America. Since then, many seeds have been sent all over the world. It is noteworthy that the description based on fossil records corresponds perfectly with the structure of the living plant.
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera L.)
This is one of the tallest and most beautiful hardwoods from the eastern region of North America, with large, fragrant, and showy flowers resembling tulips or lilies. It was introduced into Europe from Virginia by the earliest colonists. It is a very tall tree, up to 60 m tall, with a massive trunk. It was present in the primeval forests, but was cut for the valuable soft wood. Pioneers hollowed out single logs to make long, lightweight canoes. In North America, this tree is among the foremost commercial hardwoods, used for furniture as well as for crates, toys, musical instruments, and pulpwood. It is a very handsome tree, both when in flower and when the leaves turn yellow in autumn, and is often grew in parks and large gardens.
Holly (Ilex aquifolium L.)
Native to South Europe, North Africa and West Asia, the European Holly is a kind of evergreen tree with a dense, conical crown of short, spreading branches and shiny red berries. This tree is cultivated since ancient times, the wood is employed to veneers and inlays, and shiny red berries for Christmas decoration.
Noteworthy trees in the west section are:
Persian silk tree (Albizia julibrissin Durazzo)
Named after Albizzi, an Italian naturalist, it is a deciduous tree, up to 10 m tall, with flowers featuring showy, mop-like clusters of pink stamens.
Japanese Banana (Musa basjoo Sieber)
Japanese Banana is a stoloniferous herb, about 3 m high, it was previously thought to have originated from the Ryukyu islands of Japan, where is grown for its fibre, but now it is known to have originated from southern China, where it is also widely cultivated.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba L.)
The only species of its family worldwide, Ginkgo is generally known as a living fossil related to conifers, and the sole survivor of its ancient and formerly widespread family. This sacred tree has long been cultivated and possibly preserved from extinction by Buddhist priests on temple grounds in China, Japan and Korea. Female trees are objectionable because the seeds reek like rancid butter. The seeds, or Ginkgo nuts, are eaten in the Far East. Its common name, “maidenhair-tree”, alludes to the resemblance of the leaves with that fern. This hardy tree is very resistant to pollution, dust, wind, ice, insect pests, and disease.