Text and images by guest contributor Sheri Bailey…
Vallarta Botanic Garden (Photo 1)
While visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mexico during Spring Break, 2016, I had an opportunity to take what is known as the “Hidden Mexico” tour. This tour of Puerto Vallarta’s southern region provides an insight into the area and the lives of the residents. One of the highlights of the tour is a trip to the Vallarta Botanical Garden located just 30 minutes south of Old Town Puerto Vallarta.
The Mission of the Vallarta Botanic Garden is “to create Mexico’s foremost botanical garden for the propagation, study, disco very, conservation, and display of Mexican native plans for the enjoyment of Puerto Vallarta’s residents and our visitors”. Located on approximately 20 acres, the garden was founded in 2004 by Robert Price, and his mother Betty, for the purposes of conservation and environmental awareness.
The Gardens showcase a variety of plants native to Mexico. A tour of the gardens provides the tourist with a unique opportunity to learn, not only about the plant itself, but also about the history and mythology behind many of the species on display.
Crescentia Alata (Photo 2)
Commonly known as the Mexican calabash, this is a semi-deciduous landscape tree native to Southern Mexico. The tree has leaves that look like a cross, as well as round fruits that grow directly out of the trunk. Our tour guide told us that when the “fallen angel” was cast from Heaven he wandered the earth and found the tree with leaves shaped like a cross. This so infuriated the angel that he threw rocks at the base of the tree. God turned the rocks into round fruit with hard protective shell. These gourds can be hollowed and dried and used as containers for food and drink.
Prickly Pear Cactus (Photo 3)
This cactus grows wild all over Mexico. The prickly pear cactus fruit, otherwise known as tunas, make a refreshing snack. The cactus, considered the official plant of Mexico, can be found on the flag, as part of the coat of arms. Legend has it that the nomadic Aztec tribes were wandering throughout Mexico in search of a divine sign that would indicate where they were to settle down and build a city. They eventually found a golden eagle, devouring a snake while perched on a prickly pear cactus. This is said to be the sight on which present day Mexico City is now located.
Peyote (Photo 4)
Peyote is a small, spineless cactus known for its psychoactive properties when ingested. The plant is used by certain indigenous tribes in religious rituals for its hallucinogenic properties. However, it is illegal for those not part of the protected indigenous group to use the drug.
Philippine Jade Vine (Photo 5)
One of the main focuses of these botanical gardens is orchid conservation and propagation is the major focus of the garden. A beautiful variety of orchid plants can be found growing in the orchid house.
Vanilla Plant (Photo 6)
The vanilla plant is a species of a climbing Orchid. The vanilla plant was first cultivated by the “Totonac” people who inhabited the East Coast of Mexico. According to legend, the tropical orchid was borh when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father to marry, fled to the forest with her mortal lover. The lovers were eventually captured and beheaded. Where their blood spilled on the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.
Gift Shop (Photo 8)
Since our tour of this beautiful facility was only one stop in a series of several stops on tour, we could only spend a brief time visiting this unique destination. But one could spend several hours enjoying the variety of plants this local gem has to offer.
Text and Images: Sheri Bailey, Guest Contributor
Photo location: Vallarta Botanical Garden, Mexico (2016)