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Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Pamplemousses Garden (1)

Pictures from Pamplemousses Botanical Garden in the North of Mauritius (first part): Talipot Palms, Lotus flower, and Cannonball Tree.

Talipot Palms in the Pamplemousses Garden
Talipot Palms (Corypha umbraculifera) in the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, Mauritius.

Talipot Palm trees do flower only once and then they die (these plants are monocarpic). These palms grow for several decades and then produce buds. Full blooming with an abundance of golden yellow flowers takes place when the tree is 50 to 80 years old. Then after the fruit has matured, the talipot palm dies. The flowering of a talipot palm in the Pamplemousses garden is a rare event that draws crowds. In the Pamplemousses garden, the talipot palm trees are located along Avenue Telfair.

The Pamplemousses Botanical Garden is probably the tourist attraction of Mauritius that is the most famous abroad. It is the oldest botanical garden in the southern hemisphere. It is periodically visited by various foreign personalities. The Botanical Garden used to be named after the village where it is located.

The Pamplemousses Garden was created by Pierre Poivre (1719-1786), intendant of the island from 1767 to 1772. For this purpose, he used the former estate of Governor Mahé de La Bourdonnais, located not far from Port Louis.

Pierre Poivre is a French naturalist, an agronomist and colonial administrator. He was born in Lyon. While traveling in Asia, he was aware of the issue of spices. The attack on his ship by the British, the amputation of his right arm hit by a cannon ball, and his forced landing to Batavia (now Jakarta) did not discourage him, but gave him the opportunity to strengthen his knowledge of this matter.

Back to France, Pierre Poivre, with such a predestined name, persuaded the French East India Company to introduce the cultivation of spices on the Isle de France (now Mauritius), the infrastructure of which the French Governor Mahé de La Bourdonnais had already started to develop. In the meantime, the King of France took over the colonies from the Company.

Appointed Royal Administrator of Ile de France (Mauritius) and Ile Bourbon (Réunion), he gave a strong impetus to the cultivation and trade of spices. He created the Pamplemousses Garden. He gathered endemic species but also plants and spices from the whole world, such as the nutmeg and clove trees that were previously the monopoly of the powerful Dutch East India Company.

His nephew, Pierre Sonnerat, and a French explorer and naturalist, Philibert Commerson (1727 -1773) brought him valuable assistance in collecting spices and rare species.

The adventurous life of Philibert Commerson and his partner Jeanne Barrett (1740-1803) deserves to be remembered: keen on botany, Philibert Commerson boarded the ship of Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1766 and stated a tour around the world to discover exotic plant species. His partner accompanied him on the voyage, dressed as a man since women were forbidden on French ships at that time. The subterfuge was discovered in Tahiti. The couple was allowed to continue the trip to the Isle of France. There, Philibert Commerson actively assisted Pierre Poivre. Exhausted by expeditions to Asia and Madagascar, he died in 1773 in Mauritius. Jeanne Barret then went back to France, becoming the first French woman to perform a tour around the world.

One of the closest advisers of Pierre Poivre, Jean-Nicolas Céré (1737-1810), was appointed director of the royal garden of Pamplemousses in 1775 after Pierre Poivre had returned to France. He developed the botanical garden, the importance of which was not understood by all settlers. He created several ponds. He is also the author of the layout of the main avenues in the park.

Under British rule, the garden had first to deal with a lot of difficulties. In 1849, the appointment of James Duncan as director gave a fresh boost to the development of the botanical garden, including the introduction of royal palm. Today, the botanical garden has more than 80 palm species, including the aforementioned talipot palms, bottle palms, elephant foot palms, bamboo palms, red latan palms and many more. Under British rule, the beautiful ornamental wrought-iron gate was installed at the main entrance of the garden. This gate has won the first prize in a competition held in England in 1862.

Lotus Flower in the Pamplemousses Garden
Lotus Flower (Nelumbo nucifera) in the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, Mauritius.

The Lotus is a perennial aquatic plant native to India. It is a sacred flower for Hindus and Buddhists. In China and elsewhere, it is used as a medicinal plant or as food. The flower is white or pink. It is supported by a long stem usually exceeding the uppermost leaves. The fruit looks like a shower head. The leaves are waterproof.

The lotus pool of the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden is located near the pool of the giant water lilies and the bust of Pierre Poivre.

Since 1988, the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden has been officially named Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden after the father of the country's independence, the memorial (Samadhi) of which is located in the garden near the Villa Mon Plaisir.

Villa Mon Plaisir, called now the Castle, is a colonial mansion built in the 19th century under British Rule in the Botanical Garden. It hosted famous visitors such as Indira Gandhi, Princess Margaret, François Mitterrand and Thabo Mbeki. As for Pierre Poivre's house, it did not survive to the present day.

The garden covers an area of 33 ha. It is open from 8.30hrs to 17.30hrs every day, including Sundays. If you opt for a guided tour, official multilingual guides are available at the main gate.

Cannonball Tree in the Pamplemousses Garden
Cannonball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) in the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, Mauritius.

This evergreen tree has medicinal properties, including antiseptic and antifungal qualities. It is a sacred tree for Hindus. It is often associated with Shiva temples in India. It is called the Nagalingam tree in Tamil.


 

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Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Pamplemousses Garden (2)

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Travel guide to Mauritius with many nice pictures.