Located on the west end of St. Croix is a place where beauty, history, and culture blend together in an inviting atmosphere. It is here you learn of the mysterious “weed woman” and the cures she has concocted from an array of plants. Here you see remnants of history in the remains of an old sugar plantation spread over 16 acres of enchanting land. It is also here at the St. George Village Botanical Garden that you learn about the natural wonders of St. Croix.
The history is as rich as the soil at St. George. From 100 to 900 A.D the property was an Arawak Indian Village, until the introduction of the Danes. With Sugar production on the rise and the Danish influence, the land became a Sugar Plantation in 1733. Along with sugar, the Danes tried their luck at producing rum. At the dawn of the 20th century, the property was a cattle ranch until 1972 when it became the St. George Village Botanical Garden. The grounds are now listed with the National Park Service as a National Historic District. Self-guided walking tours lead you through remnants of the past as well as various gardens.
The tour begins at the Great Hall. Though this is not the original great house, it was built using materials salvaged from ruins found on the site. The rooms connected by the Great Hall are indeed historic structures. They are the original quarters for plantation workers and their families.The Orchid Garden is just beyond the Great House and borders the Tropical Rain Forest. This display illustrates what you will find in St. Croix’s tropical rain forest. As you enter the forest, the temperature drops and a sweet fragrance wafts from the tall fruit trees. At the end of the forest trail, you will find a Danish Flume. The flume, resembling a trough, was built before 1836 to feed water to the sugar and rum factories.
Continuing along, the trail will lead you to the fruit orchard where mangoes, oranges, limes, and other treats fill large trees and sometimes, the ground below.If you can pull yourself away from the tempting fruit, you will find the cactus garden. Built among ruins of a sugar mill and rum factory, the cactus garden holds many kinds of cacti. Delicate flowers, and in some cases, edible fruits are hidden among thorns and hair-like spines.Further on, more exotic shrubs, trees, and flowers beckon you. This is the Medicinal Herb Garden. After browsing through this garden you will notice that many of these plants grow wildly along St. Croix’s road sides and you can imagine how abundant they must have been years ago before commercial development. Many of these plants are still used today for their medicinal and culinary values.
Though the tradition of natural healing is not as prominent as it once was, the “weed woman,” or “bush Doctor” is still a position of respect, as it was in the colonial era. It is not enough to be able to identify a plant as medicinal, it is even more important to realize that if not used correctly, some of the plants can be toxic. The weed woman was sought after for her knowledge in accurately diagnosing illnesses, knowing the right plant as the cure, whether to use it as a tea, poultice, a bath, etc. Identification of the plants is easy at the garden. Each of the medicinal plants is labeled by its common name on St. Croix, as well as its uses.
Before returning to the Great House, stroll through the Wedding Garden, the Fragrance Garden and by all means, enjoy yourself and all that nature has to offer.