The Institute of Botany of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, known as a wide-profile scientific center for the study of plants in the republic, was founded in 1936 as an official organization within the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR. The Mardakan Arboretum (now the Institute of Dendrology of ANAS) functioned at the Institute of Botany until 1999, the Department of the Botanical Garden (now the Central Botanical Garden) until 2000, the Department of Fundamental Problems of Biological Processes (now the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of ANAS) until 2016.
The first director, an outstanding botanist, a well-known researcher of the Caucasian flora, laureate of the USSR State Prize, full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences A.A. Grossheim (1936-1947) played an important role in the establishment and development of the Institute. After him, the Institute was headed by acad. M. H. Abutalibov (1947-1950; 1962-1978), acad. H.A. Aliyev (1950-1952); doctor of biol. sci. Sh.O. Barkhalov (1952-1957), acad. V.Kh. Tutayug (1957-1962), acad. U.K. Alekberov (1978-1988), acad. V.J. Hajiyev (1988-2008), corresponding member of ANAS, S.H. Musayev (2008-2010). From 2011 to the present, acad. V.M. Ali-zade is the director of the Institute.
Under the leadership of acad. A.A.Grossheim, who laid the foundations for floristic and geobotanical researches in the country, studies on the certification of winter pastures, deserts, semi-deserts, as well as summer pastures, meadows and carpets of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus, over the next years, numerous botanical expeditions were organized to all regions of Azerbaijan, floristic researches were carried out to identify raw materials, much work were done to assess and protect the productivity of winter and summer pastures and forests, and fundamental works were published.
The achievements of H.A.Aliyev, L.I.Prilipko, I.I.Karyagin, Y.M.Isayev, V.Kh.Tutayug, Q.F.Akhundov, M.M.Abutalibov, J.A.Aliyev, I.S.Safarov, A.Kh.Khalilov, R.Y.Rza-zade, H.M.Qadirov, V.J.Hajiyev, R.Q.Askerova, S.H.Musayev, N.M.Ismayilov and other famous scientists should be noted in the field of complex study of higher plants.
Acad. V.I.Ulyanishchev, the only scientist in the republic who was awarded the Lenin Prize played an important role in the study of mycology. This area was further developed in the works of T.M.Akhundov, E.S.Huseynov in 1985-1997. From 1997 to the present, under the leadership of D.N.Agayeva, along with classical morphological methods, the most modern molecular and ultrastructural approaches are introduced into the study of fungi. Merits of Sh.O.Barkhalov, N.I.Karayeva on the development of research on the diversity of lower plants, their ecology, distribution in different regions, as well as algological research on algae of the Caspian Sea are noteworthy.
The oldest and most significant herbarium foundation in the Caucasus has been functioning at the Institute from the moment its establishment since 1936. Currently, the rich herbarium collection, numbering 600,000 specimens of Azerbaijan and a number of countries, also contains about 300 samples of typical plant species found for the first time for science in Azerbaijan.
Since the 30s and 40s, in the field of research of plant resources of Azerbaijan, scientists of the Institute of Botany have studied rubbery herbaceous (M.Mikayilov), essential oil of industrial value (N.L.Gurvich), vitamin (A.A.Grossheim, Y.M.Isayev, L.I.Prilipko, D.A.Shutov) plant species, as well as reserves of sweet licorice root, arundo and reed (V.J.Hajiyev, R.A.Aliyev, A.I.Mayilov). Thus, up to 1000 medicinal, more than 1000 essential oil, up to 200 tanning and up to 500 vitamins-containing plant species of the flora of Azerbaijan have been studied, a technology for obtaining biologically active substances from them has been developed (N.I.Ismayilov, F.Y.Gasimov). In recent years, the individual isolation of biological active substances from a number of useful (food and medicinal) plants of the flora of Azerbaijan, their identification, phytochemistry, the possibility of their use in the creation of new medicinal preparations (E.N.Novruzov, S.V.Serkerov) has been studied. An ethnobotanical characteristic of a number of food and medicinal plants traditionally used by the people in healthy nutrition (S.J.Ibadullayeva) was given, the resources of medicinal plants in the flora of Azerbaijan were studied, and for the first time a dynamic electronic database covering 1600 species was created (N.P.Mehdiyeva).
Acad. M.M.Abutalibov played a great role in the fundamental development of plant physiology in the history of the Institute. At that time, he initiated a number of directions and created the corresponding laboratories: A.A.Mardanov (mineral nutrition of plants), Z.Huseynov (water regime), R.M.Mehdizade (plant growth and development), S.А.Alekberov (plant resistance), Z.S.Azizbekov (plant resistance to soil salinity). The solution of issues related to plant physiology, as the dictates of the time, was reflected in the work carried out in the field of agriculture and plant growing
Thus, the foundation for the development of directions in experimental botany was laid at the Institute. In the 70-80s, research was directed to the biophysical study of photosynthetic systems (Dr., Prof. R.A.Hasanov, Dr. I.M.Kurbanova), the study of the mechanism of transport of ions and organic substances in lipid membranes in the presence of modifiers of membrane permeability (Kh.M.Gasimov), physiology of root nutrition of plant, as well as cellular and molecular mechanisms of ion transport, resistance to stress, adaptive potential of local wild plant species in contaminated soils (V.M.Ali-zade).
In 1988, with the inclusion of the department of fundamental problems of biological productivity into the structure of the Institute under the leadership of the famous scientist academician J.A.Aliyev, a new historical stage has begun in the development of the Institute of Botany. Modern achievements of plant physiology, biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology and bioinformatics at the Institute are closely related to his name.
In 2001, on the initiative of acad. J.A.Aliyev, the National Program for the Protection of Plant Genetic Resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan was prepared. Since 2006, the scientific directions of the Institute of Botany were carried out in line with the “National strategy and action plan for the protection and sustainable use of biological diversity in the Republic of Azerbaijan.” The valuable scientific contribution of J.A.Aliyev and his school is reflected in numerous monographs and articles that have not lost their relevance to this day.
A large scientific school of highly qualified scientific personnel was created under the scientific guidance of the academician. A worthy successor to the academician, vice-president of ANAS, acad. I.M.Huseynova, corresponding members of ANAS I.V.Azizov, N.M.Guliev, I.A.Shakhmuradov, doctors of biological sciences S.Y.Suleymanov, Y.M. Feyziev, K.G.Gasimov and others carried out complex research in new fields of science, such as molecular biology, genetic engineering, bioinformatics, etc., the results of which were highly appreciated in the international scientific community. Today, the researchers of this school, successfully working in the world's leading scientific centers and universities, bring glory to the Azerbaijani people. Since 2016, this department, transformed into the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of ANAS, has been successfully continuing its activities.
Our nature is extremely rich. After Azerbaijan gained independence, the state policy in the field of environmental protection and ecology began to take shape during the leadership of the National Leader Heydar Aliyev. Currently, Mr. President Ilham Aliyev pays special attention to the protection and effective use of plant biodiversity in our country. In 2013, the second edition of the Red Book of Azerbaijan prepared by the staff of the Institute of Botany (chief editor J.A. Aliyev) was published. Currently, research in this area is being successfully continued.
In accordance with the Development Concept “Azerbaijan 2020: a vision of the future” approved by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2017, and the “National Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity in the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2017-2020” at the initiative of acad. V.M. Ali-zade, the structure of the Institute of Botany was improved, new departments, laboratories and sectors were created with considering the application of a modern management model and effective scientific activity, as well as trends, requirements and challenges of world science.
Since 1998 the Institute of Botany has been participating in a number of scientific programs directed to the study of the vegetation of the Caucasus in accordance with modern international standards within the framework of the innovative projects: “Conservation of biodiversity of Caucasian endemic plant species” of the Missouri Botanical Garden, USA (2006-2009), “Caucasus Plant Biodiversity Initiative” of Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin (BGBM) (since 2009) and “Collection of Wild Plants of Azerbaijan” of the Millennium Seed Bank of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (since 2012 to date) and Global Plant Initiative (GPI, USA) (2013-2015). As a result of this it was possible to change the infrastructure of the Herbarium Foundation, the most significant in the Caucasus, develop new directions of botanical science (molecular taxonomy and phylogeny of plants, phytosociology of ecosystems, etc.), train young specialists, create an innovative botanical museum and a seed bank of rare and endemic plant species, digitize unique samples of herbarium foundation, transfer them to the European database and create a database of rare and endemic plant species. Thus, the information support system of science has been strengthened at the Institute, and a number of local and international virtual databases operate.
The results of classical and experimental botanical research of the Institute of Botany are collected in the multivolume “Scientific Proceedings of the Institute of Botany of ANAS” published since 1936. In accordance with modern challenges, since 2018, the journal is published in English under the title “Plant and Fungal Research” (ISSN 2617-8001). The Institute also publishes “Azerbaijan Botanical Journal” of the Society of Azerbaijan Botanists and also a popular scientific newsletter “World of Botany”, dedicated to the scientific activities and life of the Institute staff.
The Department of Education of the Institute successfully carries out pedagogical activities in doctoral and master's programs to prepare a new generation of highly qualified youth on the basis of educational and practical processes coordinated with science and practice under the guidance of scientists.
Currently, the Institute of Botany employs 185 employees, including 1 academician, 1 corresponding member, 1 honored scientist, 11 doctors of science, 37 doctors of philosophy and 87 scientists.