The Penang Botanic Gardens, more popularly known as "Waterfall Gardens", was established by the British way back in 1884 from an old granite quarry site. It lies in a deep valley, at the foot of 366 feet jungle clad hills, bound by evergreen tropical rain forests, divided by a cascading stream that meanders through a sprawling 29 hectares of prime and undulating grounds.
Its lush greenery and tranquil setting makes it a favorite park and a popular tourist attraction. It is Penang's unique natural heritage, being the only one of its kind in Malaysia. Besides, being a repository of flora & unique to the country and to the region, it serves as a "green lung" for Metropolitan Penang.
The Gardens' first curator, Mr Charles Curtis, from the Department of Gardens and Forests, Straits Settlements, developed the botanical and horticultural aspects. Mr Curtis was a devoted gardener and avid plant lover who tirelessly transformed this granite quarry site into a magnificent Garden. The artistic layout of the Gardens was indeed a great achievement for it blends naturally with the setting of the tropical rainforests and yet seemingly a civilized landscape. The development of Penang Botanic Gardens was very much due to his efforts, enthusiasm, energy and skill. In conjunction with this and as a tribute to him, quite a sizeable number of plants are named after him.
Moreover, in 1885, it is on record that no less than 11,500 saplings were supplied from the Gardens' nursery for tree planting exercise in and around the island.
The administration of the Gardens was under the auspices of the then Strait Settlements Gardens Department with a notable line of colonial directors succeeding one after another. For instance in 1925, Prof. R. E. Holttum succeeded Mr. I. H. Burkill as director of both the Singapore and Penang Botanic Gardens. Both of them contributed much in terms of research in the identification and reclassification of plants of the Malaysian flora.
After the 2nd world war, owing to some administrative policy changes, a decision was reached to divorce the Penang Botanic Gardens from its parent establishments in Singapore in 1946.
In 1956, the first Malaysian Services Landscaping, Sales and Rental of Plants :
Landscaping services are some of the activities of the Gardens. Normally, these services are provided to government agencies organizations, the private sector and the public.
The Gardens also provide sale of plants to the public at reasonable prices. At the Plants decoration nursery, wide choices of potted plants are available for rental to the public, organizations, government agencies and the private sector.
Prior approval must be obtained by applying through a prescribe rental form to the Director of the Penang Botanic Gardens.