Jardin des Plantes, Nantes

Jardin des Plantes, Nantes

Nantes and its Jardin des Plantes, which was founded in 1791, is particularly connected with the discovery, import and introduction of the magnolia to Europe. As early as 1726, Louis XV instructed his naval captains to bring back from their voyages any plants of interest. Plants arriving at Nantes were gathered at the Physic Garden, grown on and sent to the King’s Garden in Paris. The first Magnolia grandiflora was brought to Nantes by a sailor from Virginia in about 1711. The Mayor of Nantes appropriated it and planted it under glass in his estate. It grew well but did not flower and after 20 years he threw it out. Happily the wife of the gardener rescued it and planted it outside in her garden and there it flowered, amazing everyone with its enormous blooms and heady perfume. It is thought that a magnolia here in Nantes, planted in 1807 after being cultivated for 20 years, is the oldest in Europe.

The Botanic Garden, with greenhouses containing cacti, palm trees, collections of bromeliads, philodendrons and peperomias, and the order beds, is but a section of the Jardin des Plantes. The order beds contain 153 species of medicinal and toxic plants and a collection of endangered species from the Massif Armoricain.

The garden has streams, pools and cascades, rhododendrons, 1,000 varieties of camellias, roses and much spring and summer bedding. The central part of the garden has many outstanding trees. Liriodendron tulipifera and four types of Illicium (the anise trees) are to be found there, along with the Californian sassafras and an Umbellularia californica, another strongly aromatic tree.

The Jardin des Plantes no longer has the space for the new varieties of magnolia and the almost complete collection is now to be found at the Parc de la Beaujoire, on the northern edge of the city.

Jardin des Plantes, Nantes

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