Brissagio, Villa Emden. Foto/Photo: TES

The Botanical Garden of the Brissago Islands

The Brissago Islands (Isole di Brissago) in Lake Maggiore near Brissagio and Ascona are unique. The roots of the beautiful exotic botanical garden go back to 1885, when Antoinette (1856-1948) and her husband, the aristocrat Richard Fleming de Saint Léger, bought the islands.

On the largest island, Isola Grande, they built a house on the remains of a monastery and laid out a garden. They planted rare and subtropical species from all over the world.

In 1927, the German businessman Max Emden (1874-1940) bought the islands. A palace replaced the house. Villa Emden was made of the finest materials, white Carrara marble and Florentine marquetry floors. Max Emden also maintained and enlarged the garden.

In 1949, the Canton of Ticino (50%) and the municipalities of Ascona (25%) and Brissago and Ronco (25%) acquired the islands, the villa and the botanical garden. Since 2020, the Canton of Ticino has been the sole owner.

With its 2,000 subtropical plant species, the botanical garden is unique in Switzerland. It is home to plant species from Asia, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, South and Central America and the Mediterranean.

The garden shows a place of the world 300 million years ago, without trees, fruit and flowers and with living fossils. The Roman garden and Roman bath are also among the island’s features.

The botanical garden is managed according to the scientific criteria of the Botanic Gardens Conservation International and is a member of the Swiss Association of Botanical Gardens and Plant Collections (Hortus Botanicus Helveticus).

(Source and further information: Isole di Brissago; G. Maspoli, ´Il Parco botanico delle isole di Brissago´in GSK, Kunst + Architektur in der Schweiz, Botanische Gärten, Berne, 2019, Nr. 3).