The St. George Village Botanical Garden spans 16-acres among buildings and ruins of an 18th and 19th century sugar cane plantation. It’s botanical collection features over 1,000 varieties of plants which demonstrate the horticultural potential for the U.S. Virgin Islands. They emphasize the cultural and historical importance plants have been as a source of food, medicine, fiber, color dyes, and building material in the Caribbean. The SGVBG property also overlaps what was once an Amerindian settlement dating back to c.100 A.D.
THE HISTORY OF ST. GEORGE
Around 500 BC, a group of Ameridians called “Caribs” made their way up the Lesser Antilles from Saladero, in the basin of the Orinoco River of Venezuela. The Saladoids carried crops such as peanuts, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, pineapples, and especially cassava, from South America through the Caribbean island chain. Very likely, these Amerindians chose to build a settlement at our St. George site because of its fresh water stream, now called Mint Gut. This would have given them access to the south shore of the island 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, a parcel of land was donated to the St Croix Garden Club in order to establish what is today 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.