This beautiful tropical garden is  located next to the Palace of Belém (the Portuguese Presidential residence).  The 15 acre garden is a charming, yet often overlooked spot that has maintained a number of ponds, towering palm trees, and many hundreds of species of tropical plants that it had when it was created in the early 1900’s.  The Tropical Botanical Gardens (Jardim-Museu Agrícola Tropical) are also known as ‘Jardim do Ultramar’ (‘Garden of the Colonies beyond the Sea’) or ‘Jardim das Colónias’ (‘Garden of the Colonies’) as most of the plants come from old Portuguese colonies.

The entrance is an avenue created by huge California Fan palms and Mexican Fan palms, and on each side you can see several ‘living fossils’ – species that have not suffered any mutations for millions of years. On the left, Ginkgos, Dawn Redwood and Monkey-puzzle trees go back to the age of the dinosaurs. Close to the lake you can see Sago palms, native from Japan, and sacred figs from south east Asia, also known as the Buda tree. There is an oriental garden that shows off the Chinese Hibiscus.

Created in 1906 by royal decree (King D. Carlos I), and located in the grounds of a former zoo, it was opened in 1912, the presence of natural water influencing the choice of location. It sits on the slopes overlooking the River Tagus in Belem, one of the most interesting of Lisbon’s districts. It is one of three botanical gardens in the Lisbon area, the others being the Ajuda Botanical Gardens (also in Belem) and the Botanical Gardens near the Science Museum in central Lisbon.

The garden has rare tropical and subtropical trees and plants (many of them endangered species) from all over the world, such as Dragon Trees from the Canary and Madeira Islands and Brazilian Coral Trees. Most of them are labeled, so a visit here can also be a learning experience. It is a tranquil place regularly visited by leading international scientists and botanists. Its scientific work continues today and in its grounds you will find a seed bank, greenhouses, in-vitro culture laboratory and a xylarium (wood collection).

A highlight is the Macau Garden complete with mini pagoda, where bamboo rustles and a cool stream trickles. Young children love to clamber over the gnarled roots of a Banyan tree and spot the waddling ducks and geese.

It is a joy to amble along its palm – lined avenues and discover the grottos and ponds, the oriental garden and the topiary accompanied by the friendly birds. A welcome, peaceful, shady retreat on a sweltering summer’s day!

Other articles about Portuguese gardens:

Portuguese Gardens: Estrela Gardens, Lisbon

Oranges and Azulejos: Portuguese Heritage Gardens

Sources and further information:

Go Lisbon

aportugalattraction

Old School Gardener

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