The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

French botanical study

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254.France, in respect to botany, and indeed natural history in general, may be truly called the cradle of science. She has long been celebrated for the number and importance of her public botanical institutions; and for the deep interest which her government has taken in the prosecution of every department of natural history. From the days of Tournefort, there has scarcely been an expedition of discovery undertaken from France, to which a botanist has not been attached, with ample means of prosecuting his pursuits. Resident botanists and collectors have been placed in every colony belonging to the French government, whose foreign possessions have scarcely been less assiduously investigated than its provinces at home. The voyages of Commerson, of Michaux, of Olivier, of Labillardiere, of Du Petit-Thouars, of Leschenault, of Bory de St. Vincent, and of a host of other scientific travellers, and the large collections formed by Dombey, Aublet, and others of less note, have supplied the French botanist with stores of knowledge more ample than have been possessed in almost any other country. The importance of these is shown by the extent of the advantage derived by the French botanists from the acquisition of them; and by the multitude of new genera and species with which the publications of Jussieu, Lamarck, their successor Desfontaines, and more recently of De Candolle, are replete. Of private means applied to the prosecution of investigation in natural history, the expedition of Huniboldt to South America is a splendid example. The various scientific publications in illustration of its results are a noble monument of the zeal and knowledge, and well applied resources, of the most illustrious traveller now existing. The public botanical gardens of France are numerous; but, with the exception of those of Paris and of Montpelier, have not much celebrity. That of Montpelier, which has successively been under the direction of Magnol, Gouan, De Candolle, and Delile, all botanists celebrated in their day, has acquired a high degree of reputation. The Jardin des Plantes, at Paris, is also an establishment of great celebrity, and numbers of the rarest plants have been reared within its walls.