Rimba Ilmu is an 80-hectare botanic garden located within the University of Malaya, campus. The words Rimba and Ilmu are of the Malaysian language that literally means Forest of Knowledge. Over the years since its establishment in 1974, the garden has transformed from an abandon rubber estate to arguably one of the main ex-situ conservation site in Malaysia with an estimated living collections of around 1700 species of plants.
The garden initially used only as a teaching facility for biology students, has been made accessible to the general public since the opening of a new building in 1997. The garden adopts a rain forest theme which sets it apart from many other public gardens in Peninsular Malaysia, especially around the Klang Valley. In other words, it is as close as how a rain forest environment would feel in an urban environment. However, the garden is still at a very “young” stage and much of the planted trees have not fully grown to its maximum size.
The core collections in the garden include medicinal plants, palms, citruses (plants from the orange family), ferns and bamboos. Visitors to the garden can enjoy pleasant walks with informative plant labels and interpretation signs available at selected places along the general pathway.
Besides the garden, Rimba Ilmu has a permanent exhibition called Rain Forests and Our Environment, a conservatory named as Rare Plants and Orchid Conservatory as well as a herbarium. The exhibition provides a broad-scope bilingual introduction to the tropical rain forests, covering topics such as types of rain forests, biodiversity and species richness as well the values of forest conservation.
The Rare Plants and Orchid Conservatory, is a living collection kept in a plant house that emphasizes on understorey plants that are endemic, rare or their conservation status are threaten in its wild habitat. Over half of the collections here are wild orchids and the rest includes members from many other plant families such as palms, yams and gingers. This facility is however only accessible to the general public through organized tours or programmes.
The herbarium is a collection of dried and preserved specimens used mainly for taxonomy-related studies. The collections in Rimba Ilmu are currently over 70,000 accessions which include seed plants, ferns and its relatives, mosses, seaweeds and seagrasses. This facility, located in the main building, is only accessible to researches. Besides being an important conservation site, the Rimba Ilmu promotes environmental and nature conservation awareness through the Rimba Ilmu Environmental Education programme.
These programmes are mainly conducted for school and college level students. The Malaysian Nature Society is a frequent collaborator in this programme, which include guided nature walks, basic plant identification, stream ecology and nature-related games.