Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Agave Cactus

Agave

I recently had the privilege of spending the month of November in Oaxaca, Mexico. I was there to work on improving my Spanish, but I also had the opportunity to do a bit of cultural exploration. Right in the heart of the city is the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca (Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca). The garden is located on the grounds of a former Dominican monastery, but for many years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the site was used for military barracks. When the decision was made in the 1990s to turn the grounds into a botanical garden, quite a lot of cleanup was required, as much of area had been used for dumping grounds.

Yes, the spines on this tree are sharp.

Yes, the spines on this tree are sharp.

One Sunday morning my schoolmate Daniel (who happens to be an organic farmer) and I decided to take the tour of the gardens. Usually when I tour botanical gardens I like to take pictures of the plant labels so I’ll remember later what the plants are. However, the garden in Oaxaca has no plant labels. We were reliant on our tour guide to explain to us what most everything was. As is typical with me, I didn’t bother to write anything down. Let’s see what I remember.

We’ll start with the edibles. I’m much better at remembering food.

Sweet potato border

Sweet potato border

Okay, that wasn’t so hard. I certainly know what sweet potato leaves look like.

Raised beds

Raised beds

Ah, another one I’m good with. Marigolds in the front, corn in the back, tomatoes in the middle, and in the back left corner are peppers. In Mexico, peppers are perennials, and their stems were quite woody.

Fountain

Fountain

Well that’s just a neat looking fountain. No other identification necessary. This isn’t so hard!

Cactus Walk

Cactus Walk

Several cactus varieties, but heck if I know the names of them. I think our guide may have called the big slouchy one in the middle a biznaga. I only remember this because it was also the name of a restaurant in town that I frequented. See? Food is what I remember.

Living Wall

Living Wall

This is a wall made of closely-planted cacti. I asked Daniel to jump in the picture for scale. He’s 6’5″.

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear

You may notice this particular prickly pear isn’t all that prickly. Some commercial varieties have had the spines bred out of them for easier harvesting and handling.

Cycad

Cycad

I really like the way this cycad is leaning.

Elephant Foot

Elephant Foot

If I recall correctly, our guide referred to this as an “elephant foot” tree.

Well, there you go. If you happen to find yourself in Oaxaca (you really should find yourself in Oaxaca), be sure to take the tour at the botanical gardens. There’s a lot more to see than what I posted here, and the history of the place is very interesting.