The Botanic Garden was founded in 1770 by the abbot Gianbattista Guatteri, the Professor of Botany at Parma and first director. In 1793 the building of the glasshouses, designed by the architect E.A.Petitot, completed the project of the Botanic Garden. In 1816, when Giorgio Jan took over the running of the Garden, plant collections were enriched with his precious portable phanerogamic herbaria.
In 1845 Jan was succeeded by Giovanni Passerini, whose directorship marked further, more modern developments in research and teaching; Passerini included the use of the optical microscope for the direct observation of vegetable preparations during teaching laboratories of botany. He became also internationally famous for his brilliant studies -which are still relevant- about parasite cryptograms.
The Botanic Garden is situated in Via Farini No.90 and its area has not changed since the Garden’s foundation. It is 11,000 square metres in area and hosts 2,000 species. Particularly interesting are the new collections of insect-eating, succulent plants and violets, among which the Parma violet stands out. Nowadays the core purpose of the Botanic Garden is to conserve biodiversity of plants both in and out of their natural habitats.
Activity in the Garden is organized into the following broad themes: scientific research (primarily environmental topics), teaching botany, environmental education, scientific cooperation with local authorities. At the present time the Botanic Garden is part of the Department of Biological sciences at the University of Parma.