Located on St Croix in the United States Virgin Islands, the St. George Village Botanical Garden is a 16- acre garden situated among the buildings and ruins of an 18th and 19th century sugar cane plantation. This site overlaps an Amerindian settlement which dates back to c.100 A.D.
The Garden’s botanical collections feature over 1,000 varieties of plants that demonstrate the horticultural potential for the U.S. Virgin Islands and emphasize the cultural and historical value of plants as a source of food, medicine, fiber, color dyes, and building material in the Caribbean.
Visitors enjoy a spectacular mix of history and natural beauty with a variety of themed garden areas set among the historic structures of the colonial era sugarcane plantation. The property is listed twice in the National Registry of Historic Sites for both the Amerindian archaeological site and the Danish colonial sugarcane plantation village.
The early settlers who once called the area their home made their way up the island chain from the Saladero site in the basin of the Orinoco River in present-day Venezuela. These Saladoid peoples were skilled horticulturists who had been cultivating cassava for centuries. The Saladoid culture and later groups carried crops such as peanuts, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, and pineapples from South America through the island chain. Very likely, these Amerindians selected the St. George site because the fresh water stream, now called Mint Gut, would have given them access to the south shore via canoe and thus provided a means to travel easily through the center of the island. The Saladoid inhabitants occupied this site until about 1,000 A.D. when they apparently dispersed to other island locations.
Under Danish rule around 1750, sugarcane was first planted on this site. For the next 200 years, sugarcane dominated all the activity on Estate St. George. A series of Danish owners, including such prominent men as John Heyliger and Peter Oxholm, controlled the working farm, the sugarcane “factory,” and the land’s enslaved and freed workers.
During the early part of the 20th Century, as the profits from sugar production declined, cattle replaced sugarcane on Estate St. George. By the early 1970s much of the land fell into disuse, and dense tropical vegetation began to reclaim much of the property and buildings. In 1972,l the first parcel of land that was to become the 16.5 acres of the present day Botanical Garden was donated to the St. Croix Garden Club in order to establish the St. George Village Botanical Garden.
A visit to the St. George Village Botanical Garden provides an opportunity to learn about the natural beauty and history of the Virgin Islands.