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Le Jardin des Plantes
One of the crowning glories of the gardens are the greenhouses. They had been closed for several years while undergoing renovation but fortunately reopened in 2010.
The second greenhouse was built in 1937, and it is called Winter Garden. It is 50 meters or 160 feet long and it is kept at 22 degrees centigrade with over 80% humidity resulting in an artificially produced, clammy tropical environment much like south Florida in the summer. The dome for this structure is 15 meters or 50 feet in height. Considering the difficulty of keeping the environment constant for these cold hating plants, it speaks well of the structure that during the coldest recorded winter of 1945 and 1953, the mature plants survived.
Antoine de Jussieu was considered a brilliant botanist who assisted in the garden and provided medical care to the poor. He is reported to have brought two cedars from Lebanon in his top hat because the pots holding the plants had broken.
The Rose Garden was added in 1990 and includes hundreds of species of roses and rose trees. One variety to search for is called the Rosa gallica or Rosa mundi and its distinguishing feature is that each rose is multicolored. This rose is a marvel and well worth the effort to find.
The Royal Menagerie was moved here in 1792. It was the first and therefore the oldest civil zoological garden in the world. It takes up about one third of the Jardin des Plantes. The founder of the menagerie was Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, who was reported to have been committed to keeping wild animals in their natural environment and placing them under scientific supervision. In the interest of education, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre insisted that the public be allowed access to view the animals.
If you love jewels you will adore the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie. It was built in the neo-classical style and is home to over 2,000 gems, crystals, precious minerals and works of art. The collection includes the Saint Louis emerald that decorated the central lily of the Holy Crown of France that was given to the Saint-Denis Abbey for the crown of the kings of France by Louis IX.
Science, research and education have been a constant and an ever-growing aspect of the Jardin des Plantes. According to their website they publish research journals and six collections of monographs on botany, earth sciences, zoology, biodiversity management, human sciences and the history of science. Each year there is a new theme that is presented in the main garden that serves to educate the visitor on one of these topics.
Loui Franke is author of Parisian Postcards: Snapshots of Life in Paris.
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