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St Vincent botanic garden

Coloured illustration of the botanic gardenView of the botanic garden in St Vincent, from: Lansdown Guilding. An account of the botanic garden in the island of St Vincent, from its first establishment to the present time. Glasgow: Richard Griffin & Company, 1825 [FCO Historical Collection QK73. S2 GUI]In 1765 General Robert Melville (1723-1809), the governor of St Vincent, Grenada, the Grenadines, Tobago and Dominica, established a garden near Kingstown, St Vincent, for the cultivation and improvement of native and exotic plants, particularly those with economic or medicinal uses.

Under its first two superintendents, Dr George Young and Alexander Anderson, the garden became an important centre for the collection, propagation and distribution of plants and made a significant contribution to the economy of the region and to the knowledge of tropical American botany.

Young obtained his specimens from various sources; the War Department and the East India Company sent him plants from places such as India and Borneo but he also collected or was sent material from around the Caribbean. In 1773 the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce awarded him its Gold Medal for his horticultural achievements with economic plants and by 1785, when Anderson took over, the gardens contained some 348 types of plant.

Anderson was also an energetic collector, and gathered plants on Trinidad, Tobago, St Vincent and the other Lesser Antilles, as well as South America. Over 100 of the plants which he collected were new to science. Anderson also had an extensive network of correspondents in England, the United States and aroundthe Caribbean, through whom he obtained and distributed specimens.

By 1800 the garden boasted some 2,000 different varieties of plant. Anderson played an important role in the introduction of the breadfruit into the Caribbean. In 1793 Captain Bligh arrived at St Vincent aboard the Providence with a large number of Polynesian plant specimens.

Among the plants which Anderson obtained from him were eight varieties of breadfruit. In return he prepared several hundred plant specimens to be taken back to England with Bligh for Kew. The breadfruit plants Anderson received were in poor condition but he nurtured them, propagated them and eventually was able to distribute specimens around the Caribbean.

The plate on display is a view of the gardens as seen from the superintendent’s house.

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