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Efforts should be concentrated on evolving the Botanic Gardens

Efforts should be concentrated on evolving the Botanic Gardens

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When the Botanic Gardens was commissioned in 1765, its founders had not envisioned a site for picnics, tourists and weddings.{{more}}

In fact, the 20-acre plot of land was designed to be a pharmacy, laboratory, and a source of food for not only this colony, but also the region and the known world.

This information was disseminated by regional historian Lennox Honychurch at the ceremony to unveil plans for the restoration of the site held on Monday, February 6, at the gardens.

Honychurch, considered the Dominica version of this country’s late historian Dr. Earl Kirby, delivered an overview of the importance of the Botanic Gardens, not only to St. Vincent and the Grenadines but also the region and the world.

Taking the audience back in time, the author and curator pointed out that when Governor Robert Melville commissioned the gardens 247 years ago, mostly with his own funds, a primary objective was for the storage, study and distribution of tropical plants

“We could see that from the very beginning, there was this concern about medicine, about expanding the medical knowledge of Europe through the tropical plants, and that was really the key.”

“It was no coincidence, for instance, that Dr. George Young, who was a surgeon and doctor became the first curator, because he was concerned about applying the knowledge of medicine to plants in St. Vincent for the benefit of health in the colony.”

With the cultivation of sugar, making it the highest valued product in the world, along came the industrial revolution, modern machines of the times, and the slave trade.

Honychurch noted that with the transportation of enslaved West Africans to the Caribbean, the question of food supply became urgent, causing more focus on the gardens for the provision of food and not just medicine, instead of procuring supplies from colonies in North America.

He stated that the decision was made to source specimens from the Pacific islands, which would also be brought to St. Vincent for storage and distribution.

“And here comes William Bligh.”

“After that was over (the mutiny on the HMS Bounty)… and given another ship, the HMS Providence, he finally brought the breadfruit and hundreds of other plants from the Pacific and to Jamaica.”

“We always hear about the breadfruit, but that ship was loaded with far more than just those hundreds of breadfruit plants, and a lot of things that we use today are also from the Pacific.”

These, he said, include the dasheen, pandanas and the noni plant, among others.

According to Honychurch, many books were written about the Botanic Gardens, which were distributed worldwide.

He said that a number of the indigenous plants and animals were also named after the men who documented the horticultural history of the island; one such is the national bird the Amozona Guildingii, which derives part of its scientific name from Lansdown Guilding, a British religious minister.

Honychurch opined that with the various activities that take place in the gardens today, efforts should be channeled or concentrated on new ways to evolve the site.

He said that knowing the significance of the botany, the hills and mountains around us, is a key component in understanding tour history.

This Botanic Gardens, like others, can be the connector between our young people and the land on which we live; technology is divorcing them.”

“….The understanding of the real life in the hills and mountains and the marine around the islands is very important. This education is on the shoulders of those people who are going to run this Botanic Gardens; to link the citizens of the country with reality of their land, and to explain to visitors to this land what this country has to offer, and the wonders of nature that it has with it.”

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