When you’re ready to trade sea for shore, if only for a few hours, take a walk on the wild side and visit one of the beautiful botanical gardens in the Caribbean. Here’s a sampling of seven:
1. National Botanical Garden Dr. Rafael M. Moscoso.
Located in the heart of Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital city, this 400-acre garden is one of the largest in the Caribbean. “The Garden is a special place, as it has nearly 70,000 different botanic species, which are distributed into the country’s eight most important ecosystems,” says Michell Cosme, director of communications. Highlights include a flower clock, which measures 65 feet wide, 12 feet high with 16-foot-long hands; a Japanese Garden with bamboo, Junipers, and Asiatic plants and flowers; and an Herbarium. A trolly tour of the gardens is available. www.jbn.gob.do
2. St. George Village Botanical Garden.
This St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Island situated garden was a fully functioning sugar plantation from the 1700s up until the 1940s. It was converted into a 16-acre botanical garden in the 1970s. “We have done our best to pay tribute to the men, women, and children who lived on this property as enslaved workers and indentured servants. As you walk the garden you can feel the love and light that has come from its transformation,” invites Becca Mendelson Hughson, director of administration, development, marketing, and events. Yoga, plant sales, music, and the annual Mango Melee in July, are some of the garden events. sgvbg.org
3. J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens.
Named after the British Virgin Islands’ National Parks Trust’s (NPT) first Chairman, this is an oasis in the heart of Road Town, in Tortola. “We have a medicine bed with plants used locally in teas, several tropical fruit trees like mango, starfruit, and breadfruit; plants that bloom throughout the year like the Serra Terra and our Christmas Garden is the highlight of the season with all eyes on our Snow-On-The-Mountain plant,” explains Diehdra Potter, the NPT’s deputy director of marketing and business development. There’s also a ‘conservation collection’ of plants native to the BVI such as Prickly web (Leptocereus quadricostatus) found on Anegada and Poke-me-boy (Vachellia anegadensis). www.bvinpt.org/jr-o-neal-botanical
4. Amuseum Naturalis.
Find this free museum, much of which is gardens with viewpoints and trails, in Grand Case, St. Martin. “Instead of just giving the names of plants, we create exhibits to put them in context. For example, how Amerindian and African plant medicinal traditions are the roots of current practices. And even how a calypso song can both be inspired by plant medicine, and a way to preserve that knowledge. We also have a free plant stand, where people can get seedlings of native trees and heritage plants,” says Mark Yokoyama, co-founder of Les Fruits de Mer, which runs the museum. amuseumnaturalis.com/
5. The Botanical Gardens of Nevis.
Drive east nearly 4 miles east of Charleston to this 10-acre garden, which showcases native Caribbean and global tropical flora. “The Tropical Rainforest, with its dramatic waterfalls and winding waterways, is a particular favorite for visitors, as well as beautiful Vine and Orchid Gardens,” says Christi Douglas, owner/manager. “Some visitors also refer to us as a ‘mini zoo” due to our collection of various including our parrots Arturo and Flacco, cockatiels Nelly and Yellow, Bridget the Goat, and many others.” The garden is especially known for its large collections of a variety of palms, orchids, bromeliads, medicinal and flowering trees. www.botanicalgardennevis.com
6. Botanic Garden at the Montserrat National Trust.
Much of the island’s green spaces were lost in successive volcanic eruptions, so the Trust used the land around its headquarters to create a garden to preserve this biodiversity. There’s an orchid house with the island’s endemic orchid, the Epidendrum montserratense with its greenish-yellow flowers, on display. Seeds of this orchid were saved in the UK’s Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank to make sure it doesn’t become extinct. There’s also a medicinal garden, composting unit, and nursery area. montserratnationaltrust.ms
7. Diamond Botanical Gardens.
Enjoy a three-in-one experience at this six-acre garden in Soufrière, St. Lucia. In addition to a variety of tropical flowers and plant life, there is soothing hot mineral springs and a breathtaking waterfall. Fans of the 1980-released Superman II may recognize the falls as the backdrop where Clark Kent picked an orchid for his lady love, Lois Lane. Rare plants worth seeing include the Yellow Balisier and the the Jade Vine, the latter of which is considered endangered species and the only one of its kind. Guided tours are available. www.diamondstlucia.com
8. Andromeda Botanic Gardens.
Over 90 plant families, plus 100 different tree species, on display in over 20 connected gardens makes this one of the most diverse tropical gardens. Iris Bannochie, a three-time medal winner at the UK’s prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, founded the garden in 1954 as a private retreat and sought to repopulate Barbados with its natural biodiversity after centuries of sugar production. Today, the gardens, located near Bathsheba, are part of the Barbados National Trust. “It feels very natural yet is completely woman-made. Andromeda is the best garden in Barbados by far, is organic and the wildlife adds so much to the enjoyment of this magical space,” says Sharon Cooke, curator, and head gardener. www.andromedabarbados.com