By Jean-Jacques Segalen (jjacques) January 12, 2011
Unlike Mauritiusís Botanical Garden of Pamplemousses, a worldwide famous garden with a history dating back to the 1770, today we will pay a visit to a baby garden on Reunion Island where the first trees have been planted in 2008 and which will be devoted to palm trees.
When I write "baby garden" beware that this is only related to its very young age, not to its size which will almost reach Pamplemousses's! While Mauritius' celebrity displays its treasures within an area of 25 hectares (250.000 square meters or roughly 820.000 square feet) its little brother on Reunion will have 20 hectares to credit the world of palm trees. Yes, this large garden will be solely devoted to palm trees with a mere 40.000 trees representing 1000 different species out of the 2800 to 3000 documented species. And, ladies and gentlemen, every single one of the 190 genus of the Arecaceae family will have at least one or two species growing there so as to display the largest collection ever made. Lots of numerals here but this is to give you an idea of the project which is a quite serious one especially for a small island like ours!
You all knowby now (or should!) where is Reunion Island and what it looks like, if you don't please quickly fly to one of my first articles to refresh your knowledge. Set? Good, let us proceed to a more precise location then. Le Tampon is the name of the town where I live and where the Palm Trees Park is slowly but surely growing. Even though most of my readers are well-educated polite folks I still can hear some snickering in the back so let me go through a rapid etymology or more specifically a little toponymy; a ‘tampon' in French is a buffer as well as a rubber stamp and various other items. But the city's name actually comes from...the Malagasy tongue (spoken in nearby Madagascar which many people on the island originate from) in which ‘tampona' means viewpoint or belvedere, an easily understandable name as the district goes from 400 meters in elevation (1200 feet) up to 1600 meters (5800 feet), a nice view indeed! Well, after this tedious but compulsory digression, back to the garden!
The project was initiated in the 1990s by the former mayor, André Thien-Ah-Koon. The preliminary studies were run by Pierre Valck, former curator of the Botanical Gardens of Nancy (France) and issued in 1998. Mr Thierry Hubert, head of the local Palmeraie-Union asssociation was choosen as official representative. Between 1999 and 2005 came many additional studies while during the year 2000 the city hall began buying land and setting up the nursery where seeds where sown and the first palm trees gathered in the local nurseries throughout the island. 2007 was a decisive year with a lot of land clearing, excavation, land design, etc. In 2008 the first trees where planted and so far there are already some 2000 of them happily growing roots down the soil. Public can now access freely the Park which is open daily from sunrise to sunset, at least on the first 2.5 hectares already done. The Park once completed (which should be by 2014) will have all the usual amenities one may need; large parking areas for cars and buses, concrete alleys for visitors on foot or on wheel-chairs, restaurant, exposition hall, specific areas for picnic, restrooms, trails for joggers, ponds designed for aquatic palms and of course a stand where visitors will be able to buy potted palm trees to be grown at home.
Yes, this is still a baby but with the nice tropical weather we have here, nutritious soils and a dedicated team the baby will soon grow, mature, turn into a youngster, then a teenager and before long you will hear about the Parc des Palmiers du Tampon on TV, radio, the Internet and you may even join me and my long beard for a slow walk underneath the soothing palms protecting us from Indian Ocean's blazing sun!
About Jean-Jacques Segalen
I am a Parisian born professional horticulturist specialized in tropical seeds producing, living on Reunion island (just between Mauritius and Madagascar) since 20 years . I spend a lot of time gathering seeds in the wild, the ones I do not grow that is. Also a dedicated Tai-Chi practitioner and fully certified arborist-tree surgeon
Just released my first book on tropical plants and fruits, check it at http://www.barbadine.com/pages/livrejjGB.html