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Reconnect with Nature at the Botanical Garden

St. Croix 100 - #90 Reconnect with NatureThe nature and history of St. Croix come together in perfect harmony at the St. George Village Botanical Garden.  This sprawling sixteen acre property is a quiet haven of beautiful foliage mingled with rambling historic plantation ruins. Come reconnect with nature, relax amongst the shade trees, and take in the delicate fragrances and diverse scenery the gardens provide.

For nature lovers and horticulturists, the botanical garden has a collection with over 1,000 native and exotic species and varieties including a medicinal herb garden, an orchid house, a trail through rainforest, a fruit orchard, a cactus garden, a palm garden, and much, MUCH more. The plants are labeled with little black and white signs, so along the way you can learn the name, native location, description and uses of the plants. When you check in at the Visitors’ Center Gift Shop, you will receive a detailed self-guided tour map that will lead you through the botanical splendor and historical structures the garden offers.

As you meander along the shaded pathways you will see massive native trees (including Kapok, Mahogany, and Turpentine), vining plants with huge leaves, lush ferns, a rainbow of colorful flowers, dripping Spanish moss, and tropical fruit trees. In addition to the flora the garden offers, it is home to a variety of local fauna as well. Keep an eye out for bananaquits (the official bird of the U.S. Virgin Islands), hummingbirds, butterflies, lizards, hard-working bees, mongoose, and dragonflies.

For those who appreciate history, St. George Village Botanical Garden is dotted with both restored buildings and preserved ruins of the Estate St. George Danish sugar plantation, originally built in the 18th and 19th century. Several gardens are now located in the Sugar and Rum Factory ruins, and the Overseer’s House is currently home to a group of Jamaican fruit bats. The Blacksmith Shop, including many of it’s tools and furnishings, has been preserved and is still in use. The Workers’ Family Quarters buildings now house the St. George Village Museum, the Library, and the Orchid House. Around the The Manager’s House you will find the garden’s Herbarium collection of over 5,000 dried and pressed plant specimens, which represent about 80% of the plant species known to be growing in the U.S. Virgin Islands and are very important for research and historical purposes.

Estate St. George also overlaps an Amerindian settlement which dates back to 100 A.D. The Amerindian settlers made their way up the Caribbean islands from the Saladero region in what is now Venezuela. These skilled horticulturists had already been cultivating cassava for centuries and the Saladoid culture (and later groups) carried many crops with them from South America through the islands, such as hot peppers, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and pineapples. It is likely that the Amerindians chose the Estate St. George site because the fresh water stream that is now Mint Gut would have given them access to the South Shore of the island via canoe. The Saladoid inhabitants occupied the area until about 1,000 A.D. when they apparently dispersed to other island locations.

If you are a photographer (professional, amateur, or otherwise) you will find the garden truly inspirational! Aside from the overwhelming amount flora and fauna, there are great photo ops at the Japanese Bridge, the gardens in the Sugar and Rum Factory ruins, and at the towering Kapok tree in front of the Great Hall. So, charge up that camera battery!

The St. George Village Botanical Garden also offers many great educational programs, activities and events throughout the year for children and adults. The garden also hosts annual events such as Mango Melee and Christmas Spoken Here. For specific dates and times currently available for the garden’s activities, workshops and events, please visit our Events Calendar.

In my opinion, no trip to St. Croix is complete without a visit to the St. George Village Botanical Garden! In about an hours time you learn about St. Croix’s plant life, see some historical ruins and preserved plantation buildings, and commune with nature. Please keep in mind that the garden is a non-profit organization, so your admission supports the garden and its programs directly. If you enjoy your visit to the garden and find you would like to do more, you can become a member, volunteer, give a donation, or find other ways you can help by visiting the gardens website.

 – Jennie Ogden, Editor
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