Prague began developing intensively only in the course of last century, when the number of buildings increased and the quota of vegetation decreased accordingly. The former fields, meadows and gardens were replaced with new suburbs. Later on the former vineyards and orchads gave way to villas.
While in last century the development of Prague was more or less spontaneous and unrestricted, in the present century it has been regulated in an ever increasing extent by the principles of urban planning. In this way the Ořechovka neighbourhood which included also parks had originated in the period between the two world wars. Analogously the construction of big housing estates after the Second World War provided certain amount of green areas, afforded particular attention in the research project "Creation and Protection of the Environment in Prague Agglomeration" in the seventies. Apart from public parks and historical gardens the project accentuated particularly woods and health areas. In general, however, the endeavour to stop and reverse the negative development towards the reduction of the quota of green areas in the total city area was not successful. In fact the most positive effect was brought about by administrative measures extending the territory of the Capital City of Prague by the incorporation of surrounding villages with a high quota of suburban countryside and, consequently, vegetation.
The present state of green areas in Prague is characterized primarily by their irregular distribution and, naturally, different quality. The per capita quota of vegetation in the individual cadastral areas varies from a few to thousands sq. m. The methodology of vegetation records differentiates twelve vegetation types: parks, areas of park character, housing estate vegetation, cemeteries and urn groves, botanical and zoological gardens, arboreta, individual housing vegetation, garden plot and cottage colonies, woods, avenues, dispersed vegetation, agricultural vegetation and other vegetation.
Quotas of vegetation in individual cadasters of Prague. The oasis on the right-hand side, the new cadaster of Černý Most, provides food for thought.
In the framework of the Urban Vegetation System project the vegetation areas have been classified into four categories: 1. areas of extraordinary significance, 2. areas of metropolitan significance, 3. areas of urban significance, 4. supplementary areas.
The first category includes the areas the significance of which often exceeds the framework of Prague. Their number includes the following areas: Šárka, Zoological Garden, Botanical Garden, Čimice Grove, Ďáblice Grove, Stromovka, Hradčany, Lesser Town, Letná and Letná Park, Břevnov and Markéta, Royal Game Preserve, Hvězda, Prokop Valley and Dalej Valley, Chuchle Grove, Cikánka, Big Grove and Staňkovka, Vítkov and Krejcárek, Olšany and Jewish Cemeteries, Vyšehrad, Kunratice and Michle Wood, Modřany Clough, Komořany Grove - Točná, Vinoř and Satalice, Vidrholec, Hostivař Reservoir, Kozinec, Milíčov Wood, Chotkovy Sady, Troja Castle, Radotín Slope, Lesser Grove - Radotín and Kamýk. Total area amounts to 4 516 hectares.
The second category comprizes 30 areas, i.e. Riegrovy Sady and Franciscan Garden. Total area covers 1 021 ha.
The third category includes over 60 areas, of total area of 975 ha and includes i.a. also the Cibulka Park.
Natural parks, artificial parks and gardens are dealt with in separate chapters. Therefore, we shall pass to Prague woods.
Woods cover almost 9 % of the total area of Prague (4 880 ha). When considering them from the historical viewpoint, we find that as early as 14th century the nearest environs of Prague were deforested considerably. At that time wood served not only as fuel, but also as building material and, naturally, also for the manufacture of the most varied tools and implements. It is no wonder, therefore, that the problems of woods were considered in the draft of the code of law of Emperor Charles IV, Majestas Carolina. However, the situation did not improve in the years to come. It was not until 1751 that the first Forest Act was adopted in Austria.
The first more detailed reports on Prague woods date from the turn of the 18th and the 19th centuries. The woods consisted mostly of oaks, hornbeams and birches, with pines and beeches on poorer sites. At that time the first forest management plans appeared considering i. a. artificial forest renovation by sowing and planting. In 1854 the Letná slopes were forested with false acacia and sumac, followed by the Žižkov hill in the 80s. At the end of the 19th century intensive forestation continued in Troja, Bohnice and on other sites. From the aesthetic viewpoint this change of the city was positive. From nature protection viewpoint, however, we do not like the preference of false acacia which changed considerably the respective biotopes and suppressed the original flora. We are struggling with the consequences of this false acacia period even at present.
According to use the woods range into several categories. The economic viewpoint has not been applied practically at all in Prague, as a result of which woods of this category cover only 170 ha. All other woods range in the category of special-purpose woods. This term covers the woods the purpose of which is not the production of wood mass. Their principal purpose is e.g. recreation to which also the methods of their management are subordinated. At present the biggest owner of woods is directly the Capital City of Prague (about 2 000 ha), followed by the State represented by the enterprise of Forest of the Czech Republic, and finally by some 350 minor private owners. These owners are probably not pleased that their property is classified as special-purpose woods; they would prefer if the wood brought them some profit. The Municipality of Prague tries to eliminate this discrepancy by its willingness to buy all forest land from private owners. So far, however, only 35 ha have been purchased.
A specific problem consists in the fact that a substantial part of Prague protected areas is located on the very forest land and the woods are the principal object of protection in some cases. It is only natural that the nature protection authorities in such cases endeavour to return the woods to their natural charater. That, however, is a long-term process in the course of which the inadequate structure of wood species is changed successively in the framework of forest management plans. Details are given in the descriptions of the individual protected areas.
An important place in the system of Prague vegetation is occupied by cemeteries. In the course of historical development large cemeteries originated initially on city margins for hygienic reasons. In the course of time, however, their sites have become central. The biggest Prague cemetary is the Olšany Cemetery, covering 47 hectares, which was the central cemetery of Prague in its time. The most important cemetery in Prague is the Vyšehrad Cemetery with the Pantheon, since the end of the 19th century the burial ground of the most outstanding personalities of Czech nation.
A specific place in the system of Prague vegetation is occupied by Vltava islands. Big rivers form islands in their beds in various parts of Bohemia. Thanks to specific geological conditions their number in Prague is large. Even in recent past the Vltava has changed its course frequently giving rise to various islands which so originated, but also disappeared. Some of them were even liquidated by man: the Holešovice island, for instance, was integrated with the embankment at the end of the 19th century.
From the viewpoint of natural sciences the most important Prague islands are Císařská Louka (Imperial Meadow) and Troja Island, while Slovanský Ostrav (Slavonic Island) and Střelecký Ostrov (Sharpshooters Island) form green oases in the very city centre. Foreign visitors to Prague know particularly Kampa, an artificial island originated by the construction of the Čertovka mill race, mentioned for the first time in 1169. It is actually a wonder that no Prague island forms a protected area, a fact probably due to a higher pressure on land use. Generally speaking it is possible to conclude that thanks to the specific urban environment even such green areas as we would not even notice in open landscape are significant in Prague.
|Elevation||min 177, max. 399 above sea level|
|Number of administr. units||57 urban parts|
|Land types (1994)|
|Agricultural soil - total||21.341 ha|
|- arable soil||15.694 ha|
|- gardens||4.013 ha|
|- orchards||747 ha|
|- meadows||552 ha|
|- pastures||325 ha|
|Non-agricultural soil - total||28.271 ha|
|- forest soil||4.852 ha|
|- water surfaces||1.070 ha|
|- built-up surfaces||4.494 ha|
|- other surfaces||17.855 ha|
|Population (December 31, 1995)|
|Population density||2.439 people/sq. km2|
Vegetation plays a role of great importance in the historical centre of Prague.
Area of psychiatric institutions in Bohnice has a high quota of vegetation.