Mauritius 3: Pamplemousses aka SSR Botanical Gardens

It is not an easy proposition to get the family to rally around you for a trip to a garden, least of all a botanical garden, especially if you have barely-in-teens children who would rather be doing something more interesting like jumping around in the clear blue sea. However, I managed to cajole them into it and off we were exploring the SSR Botanical Garden. At the end of the one hour tour of the garden even the normally skeptical kids were convinced that they had made a wise decision to agree to my proposal.

 

 

 

 

Palm Tree lined pathway

Palm Tree lined pathway

 

 

This garden is over 200 years old and has been lovingly nurtured by eminent botanists over the years. (There is a small memorial obelisk prominently displayed in the garden listing all these gentlemen who have steered the course of the garden development over the years. Nice touch, that!)

Bleeding Tree

Bleeding Tree

Bottle Palm Tree

Bottle Palm Tree

 

 

Hundreds of varieties of flora from various parts of the world find place in this garden. You thought a plam was a palm was a palm? Well how about bottle palm, elephant leg palm, talipot palm,fan palm, the sealing wax palm etc etc. And did you know that trees can shed blood? Well, there is the “Bleeding tree” which actually bleeds red sap, a sinister dark red.

Sausage Tree

Sausage Tree

 

 

Ever seen sausages growing on a tree? There they are huge sausages hanging high up on the sausage tree (Kigelia pinnata, if you are a stickler for botanical names). And how many kinds of bamboos do you think there are? There are palms which look like bamboos and bamboos which look like palms, you get them all here. In India (especially in the North) we associate bamboos with snakes. If there is something I am really terrified of is, that is a snake, even a meek garden snake is enough make me run and climb the nearest available raised surface! I gingerly asked our guide whether there were snakes around the area. I was reassured that Mauritius maybe known for many things but not for snakes, snakes apparently do not exist in Mauritius. A smile returned on my face and the rest of the garden tour was taken in peace.

I must admit the tour around the garden would not have been half as interesting had it not been for our cheerful guide, Yogesh, whose encyclopedic knowledge about things horticultural is truly impressive. Not only he would reel out the botanical names of the trees we saw, he would often give the Indian (Hindi) equivalents as well. Particularly useful when he was showing us the spice trees around the garden. Hindi equivalents made it easy to distinguish between cloves and nutmegs! Also trivia such as a bamboo can grow as much as a meter in one day (or is it overnight?).

Ten minutes into the tour Yogesh added a Danish couple in addition to the four of us. I am sure he wanted to maximize his earnings from the one hour of stroll through the gardens in addition to the hundred rupees he was charging us. Which actually turned out to be a pretty good thing afterall. For one, we (Danes and us) would take turns in photographing each other amidst the trees and shrubs. And I became a kind of a sub-guide to Yogesh for the Danes. Yogesh would introduce a tree, say the peepul tree, saying that it was an import from India and then look to me to fill in the Indian/Hindu story around it. There was peepul tree, the banyan tree, the lotus etc etc. So yours truly took the Danes on a tour of Hindu mythology and the stories around each of India flora on display. (Cloves as dental treatment freaked the Danes out completely!) Maybe I should have asked Yogesh for a cut of the money he would have made from the Danes! And a share of the future revenues he would make retelling my little stories.

 

 

 

The piece d’ resistance (please pardon my use of French, after all I have just returned from Ile Maurice!!) of the tour was the Giant Water Lilies. This is the chief attraction in the Garden. We had seen the pictures earlier but were not prepared for the gigantic leaves of the water lilies. Large green circular leaves floating majestically in water. Fully grown ones can be up to two meters in diameter. This has been imported from Brazil (we were told this is a native of the Amazon, hence the name Victoria amazonica). They looked sturdy enough for me to contemplate a quick stroll across the lily pond stepping over those giant leaves! The flower themselves are surprisingly short-lived, just twenty four hours or so! They blossom with white petals, turn purple after a few hours and turn red towards the life’s end before they wilt away.

 

 

 

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7 Responses to Mauritius 3: Pamplemousses aka SSR Botanical Gardens

  1. Paul Baines says:

    Hi there. Thanks for the interesting account of your visit to the Botanic Gardens. I must just correct your comment on snales in Mauritius – I was there last week, staying at Tamarin Bay, and a snake fell on me as I opened my hotel room door – a thin brown snake, about 30 cm long, and very active – when I tried to photograph it, it took off at great speed and slid up the side of a water pipe and eventually disappeared into a hole in the wall. I haven’t been able to identify it yet, but I think it is some type of tree snake… I am not particularly afraid of snakes, and it didn’t make any aggressive move to try to bite me, but I must say, I did get a fright. Regards,

    Paul Baines

  2. Suraj Madhav says:

    Hi, we do have a few non poisonous snakes called couleuvre(french name)but they are very rare nowsdays.

    We have some indegenous snakes on Round Island is an uninhabited islet 22.5 kilometers north of Mauritius. It has an area of 1.69 square kilometers and a maximum elevation of 280 meters. The island is a nature reserve under the jurisdiction of the Mauritian Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

    The snakes there is also called Round Island boa. This species is classified as Endangered (E) on the IUCN Red List for the following criteria: D (v2.3, 1994)This means that, although it is not critically endangered, for some time it has faced a very high risk of extinction in the wild. In 1996 the population was estimated to number less than 250 mature individuals.

    • santoshojha says:

      Thank you so much for your detailed note on the snakes of Mauritius. Now I am sure that the guide we hired at Pamplemousses did not know the relevant facts.

      You seem to be a herpetologist, how did you stumble upon my blog?

      Thank you once again for writing in.u

  3. Suraj Madhav says:

    Naa he was only being nice and did not want to give you a scare🙂

    You r always welcomed. By the way we have a small snake that fits on a small coin even when fully grown. I’ve to look for the scientific name of it and will keep you updated🙂

  4. Noelle says:

    I come from Mauritius originally, and came across your blog because I was looking for a picture of a sausage tree. It is mentioned in a very good novel that I would recommend: set in Mauritius in 1825, and the gardens are frequently mentioned, called The prisoner of Paradise by Romesh Gunesekera. My father was a plant pathologist, as I often went to Pamplemouse with him, and loved looking at all the trees there.

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