The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

Jamaica Botanic Garden

Previous - Next

928. Jamaica. The botanic garden of Jamaica was originally begun by Hinton East, Esq., and afterwards bought by government, and enlarged so as to contain seventy acres. One of the objects of its establishment was to preserve, without artificial means, the productions of various climates. Such a project could only be executed in a tropical latitude, where the various elevations of the ground would regulate the required temperature. The site chosen for this purpose is about seven miles from Kingston, on the side of the Liguanea Mountain, the summit of which is 3600 feet above the level of the sea. Here, ascending from the base, are found the productions of the various countries of the earth : every change of situation represents a change of latitude, and the whole surface of the mountain may be clothed with the appropriate vegetation of every climate, from the pole to the equator. By means of this noble and useful establishment, the vegetable productions of various climes have been naturalised to the soil, and the plantations of Jamaica have been enriched with many valuable trees, shrubs, and plants, which were heretofore unknown in the island : of these may be mentioned cinnamon, mangosteen, mangoes, sago, bread-fruit, star-apple, camphor, gum-arabic, sassafras, &c. (Edwards's Jamaica, p. 188.) In the year 1812, the whole was sold by the House of Assembly, for the small sum of 4000�, to an apothecary in Kingston. The present botanic garden of Jamaica is situated at Bath; and it has undergone various fluctuations, being, at one time, a flourishing place under the direction of Dr. McFadyen ; then abandoned, or nearly so, for want of funds; and, in 1848, again revived under the charge of Mr. Wilson. Among the plants cultivated in this garden may be mentioned the mangosteen, the cinnamon, the black pepper, the vegetable ivory, the Tonquin bean, the gamboge tree, the wax palm, three new fruits of the grenadilla kind (Passiflora edulis, P. incarnata, and P. Buonapartea), the nutmeg, the Maltese and mandarin oranges, and many other noble and beautiful plants. That variety of the cotton plant, from the undyed wool of which the cloth called nankeen is manufactured, has been introduced into Jamaica, and thrives admirably. Mr. Wilson, in his report of the state of the garden published in the Botanical Magazine for 1848, adds, 'the wild cinnamon (Canella alba) and the St. Lucia bark (Exostemma carib�'um), articles in demand at home, and exported from other parts of the West Indies, are unheeded and but little known here, though frequently found growing about our doors, and commanding a remunerating price.' Mr. Wilson also observes that the fences in Jamaica are subject to much mismanagement in various ways. It appears that the hedges are principally formed of logwood and orange and lime trees, and that these plants when treated in the way that hedges are managed in Jamaica, that is, cut the first year to the height they are intended to remain, and sheared every year afterwards, become full of weak wood at the top, with bare naked stems below; and he suggests that either other plants should be tried for hedges, or that these plants should be treated in quite a different way.