Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan Kotaishi Naruhito Shinno, the elder son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, visited Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on March 17. He toured three state-of-the-art facilities including the Wings of the Tropics butterfly exhibit, where he witnessed a spectacular release of butterflies from Central America and South America in the exhibit’s Japanese-inspired design. The traditional Japanese garden is considered one of the most important elements of Japanese art and culture.
“It was the highest honor to have hosted The Crown Prince at Fairchild and share his enthusiasm for the beauty of botanical gardens, their place in society and the endless possibilities being identified today involving the science of botany,” said Carl Lewis, PhD, Fairchild’s Director.
The Crown Prince’s educational tour began at the Paul and Swanee DiMare Science Village which houses the Wing of the Tropics butterfly exhibit and metamorphosis laboratory, as well as the Baddour DNA lab. After seeing first hand a spectacular butterfly release of butterflies from Central America and South America in the Wings of the Tropics exhibit’s Japanese-inspired design, The Crown Prince remarked, “It reminds me of Ryoan-ji, except the stones are plants.” The Ryoan-ji garden is considered one of the finest surviving examples of kare-sansui in Japan (dry landscape). Ryoan-ji is a refined type of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations arranged amidst a sweep of smooth pebbles (small, carefully selected polished river rocks) raked into linear patterns that facilitate meditation.
At the Baddour lab, The Crown Prince engaged students in the lab about their research studying the genetics of a rare palm tree to find new strategies to conserve it. A working and teaching space, current projects at the Baddour DNA lab include research on the diversity of mangos and related Southeast Asian fruit crops, the genetics of Caribbean palms on the brink of extinction, the genetics of rare orchids in South Florida and the evolution of plants within tropical island systems.
Another tour was conducted of the research and experiments underway to identify edible space plants as part of Fairchild’s ‘Growing Beyond Earth’ project in partnership with NASA. Through its award-winning Fairchild Challenge multi-disciplinary educational program, scientists and educators at Fairchild and NASA are administering plant experiments with participating middle and high school students to determine which edible plants may be suitable for growth in microgravity aboard the International Space Station’s plant growth facility, Veggie.
The traditional Japanese garden is considered one of the most important elements of Japanese art and culture. Each type of garden has its own beauty from botanical gardens to historic temples and shrines which are decorated with beautiful gardens. There are approximately 71 significant botanical gardens and arboretums in Japan, with several in Tokyo and Kyoto.