Have you actually ever seen the tree from which the cinammon bark comes?  Or tasted fresh nutmeg juice (deliciously refreshing, by the way)?  These and many other delights await the visitor of the Tropical Spice Garden on Penang Island.

 

At the main gate, you are given an organic citronella insect repellant to rub on any exposed parts of your body – how considerate!  And you are entreated to please not feed the monkeys or any birds you may encounter (I saw monkeys, black tailed squirrels, birds and darling little green frogs sitting on a lilly pad).  This is the wet tropics and you can definitely feel this at every step:  even in the shade it is easily 30 degrees and the humidity feels like 85 % +, so you are bound to perspire … no matter, wear lightweight cottons, comfortable shoes and forge ahead.  It is worth it!

Turning four hectares of an  abandoned rubber tree plantation into one of the largest  spice gardens in the world is no small feat.  It took the inspiration and determination of  David and Rebecca Wilkinson, along with a small team of experts almost two years of intense work to create a carefully planned layout that now feels completely natural. Walking through leafy-tunnels and underneath the dense canopies formed by the trees you can follow three different color-coded trails that lead you along a spice, ornamental or jungle path.  This way, you can see all 500 varieties of native and introduced flora from all over the tropical world.  Excellent signs give information about the individual plants, their qualities, uses and characteristics.

For example, the elegant light mauve flower with the common name “cat’s whiskers”  has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-allergic, anti-inflamatory and diuretic properties and, since the beginning of the 20th century when it was introduced to Europe, has been a component of the herbal “Java-style” tea.   Or the plain Rosy Periwinkle:  did you know it contains over 75 alkaloids, some of which have revolutionized cancer therapies, especially in the treatment of acute leukemia in children.

Whenever I come upon a place like this, I get so excited by finding out about the endless possibilities that Mother Nature has given us to feed, clothe and heal us – naturally and environmentally friendly. At the same time, I feel sad knowing that so much of this knowledge is being lost (partly beceause we are turning to synthetic substances), let alone the fact that many of these species are on endangered lists and thus have to be protected.

The gift shop actually has some really original items, including stylish T-shirts designed by the owner, Rebecca Owen, who is an artist in her own right.

The Tropical Spice Garden can be very proud of the many awards it has been winning, as a botanical garden, an eco-friendly venture and as a tourist attraction!

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2 Comments

  1. What an exciting way to spend the holidays! I, too, wonder what our world would be – if we were still using natural healing agents. I believe we have created other illness by the use of chemicals – both physical and environmental. Where did man lose our natural path? Wish I were there with you.

  2. liebe Zenaida,
    diese Reise ist ja wirklich eine Lebensreise gewesen. und all die schönen Fotos.
    Ja, unsere Welt ist wunderbar und kann immer wieder schöner werden, wie man am Beispiel des Botanischen Gartens sieht.Uns es ist wunderbar, daß so viele Menschen aus Deinem Kreis daran teilhaben können.
    liebe Grüße
    Dagmar

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