My trip to Mauritius: Pamplemousses botanical gardens

PAMPLEMOUSSEES BOTANICAL GARDENS

The botanical gardens of Pamplemousses is the most famous botanical garden in Mauritius.   Located in the district of Pamplemousses in the north of the island it is situated in the village of Pamplemousses which lies about seven miles northeast of the capital, Port Louis.  Pamplemousse or pamplemoucier is the grapefruit tree (Citrus x paradisi) which grows in the region, possibly introduced by the Dutch from Java.  It was named in homage to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, father of Mauritian independence.  it was designed in 1770 by the French colony’s steward, Pierre Poivre, on an area of ​​37 hectares. The garden was established in 1735 to supply boats bound for India.

In the numerous bodies of water present it is possible to admire the giant water lilies (Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana), the Asian lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera) and various species of Nymphaea. The garden hosts about 80 different species of palm trees, both endemic and exotic. Endemic species include Acanthophoenix rubra, Dictyosperma album, Hyophorbe verschaffeltii and Latania loddigesii.

Among the exotic palm trees present, the Talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera), famous for the production of the largest branched inflorescence in the world. The gardens, for a long time was ranked third among all the gardens that could be admired over the surface of the globe. They have been known successively as ‘Jardin de Mon Plaisir’ because of the historic building built  by the British in the mid-19th century in the northern part of the garden, known as ‘Chateau de Mon Plaisir’.

Not far from the Chateau de Mon Plaisir stands the funerary monument (Samadhi) erected in memory of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, father of Mauritian independence. In addition to its giant waterlilies, the garden also features spices, ebonies, sugar canes, and 85 varieties of palms from Central America, Asia, Africa and the islands around the Indian Ocean. Many trees have been planted by world leaders and royalty, including Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, Indira Gandhi, François Mitterrand and Robert Mugabe.

The origin of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Pamplemousses can be traced to the first and most famous French Governor of Mauritius, François Mahé de Labourdonnais.   In 1735, at a time when the island was known as Isle de France, Labourdonnais bought the property Mon Plaisir and created a vegetable garden to provide for his household, the young township of Port Louis, and the ships landing on the island. If this garden counts as precursor to the present garden, then Pamplemousses is the oldest botanical garden in the former British territory. On the other hand, its origin is often traced to 1768, when Pierre Poivre became director. Either way, it was one of the oldest and the most remarkable botanical collections in the tropics.

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