The Garden Guide

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

Rio de Janiro Botanic Garden

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923. The botanic garden of Rio is situated about eight miles from the town ; though, as Dr. Walsh remarks, it is more properly a garden of recreation than of science. There are very few of the immense variety of indigenous plants to be found here, and not the smallest attempt is made at classification. In 1809, a great number of plants were brought to this garden from the Isle of France. Among these were camphors, cloves, mangoes, and other fruits and spices, till then unknown in Brazil. They soon grew vigorously ; and, as every person is invited to take plants from the garden, these trees were speedily established throughout the country. In 1810, a number of plants were brought from the celebrated gardens of Gabriella, in Cayenne; and, shortly afterwards, the tea plant was introduced from China, and a colony of natives invited over to superintend its cultivation. In order to encourage and extend the growth and cultivation of all these foreign plants, their produce is exempt for ten years from all tithes and taxes. The road to this garden from Rio, Dr. Walsh describes as very delightful. ' It passes along the beautiful bay of Bota Fogo, and by the fine lake of Rodrigo de Freitas, where one side is bounded by the magnificent ridges of the Corcovado, and the other by the romantic scenery of the bay and lake. The garden is a rich flat, comprising about fifty acres, divided into compartments by avenues of exotics, among which the Sumatra nut is the most conspicuous. It is of rapid growth, yields abundance of shade with its ample leaves, and such a profusion of fruit that the walks were covered with large nuts, which give an immense quantity of oil for various useful purposes. Next in abundance is the breadfruit, which thrives with equal luxuriance, bearing among its immense foliage a spherical fruit, in size, shape, and colour, like pendulous loaves of bread. But the compartments which are the most interesting are the tea plantations. These occupy several square plots, of about half an acre each, but do not seem to have answered the expectations formed of them. The shrubs are stunted, cankered, and moss-grown, and the Chinese, to whose care they were originally intrusted, have abandoned them.'