Collections of the Arboretum de Versailles-Chèvreloup
The Versailles-Chèvreloup estate forms an arboretum that extends over 200 hectares (494 acres) of natural and landscaped spaces. It presents a collection of trees from temperate or cold regions of the globe, which can resist the climate of the Paris region.
A long and rich history
Chèvreloup was an integral part of the royal estate and its history is closely linked to that of the château de Versailles and its park. At the end of the 17th century, by order of Louis XIV, the hamlet and its lands were included in the park to expand the hunting grounds and divert the water running there to feed the palace ponds.
The Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle took possession of this estate at the start of the 20th century to develop plant collections there as a complement to those found in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. These first botanical plantations were organised following a vast plan “à la française” (a French formal garden plan). Then, starting in the 1960s, new areas of the park were developed into a scientific arboretum that followed a natural planting plan comprising distinct geographical and horticultural areas across 120 ha (296 acres) of the arboretum.
The Arboretum collections in numbers:
2,500 species and varieties of outdoor trees and shrubs.
8,000 species and varieties of glasshouse plants.
The Arboretum’s planting plan organises the tree species according to their botanical families on one hand, and to their geographical or horticultural origins on the other.
The systematic area that brings together botanically related trees is the result of the first plantings carried out between 1922 and 1935. This occupies 50 hectares (123 acres).
The geographical area was defined in 1965 and is the largest, with 120 hectares (296 acres).
Here, trees from the same continent are planted together (Europe: 250 species - Asia: 960 species - America: 700 species) and each continent is divided into regions.
Conifers and particularly spruces are one of the specialities at Chèvreloup.
The Chèvreloup spruce collection (certified as a National Collection) is made up of the systematic group of Conifers that dates from the first plantations in the 1920s, now forming the Clairières des Conifères (Conifer Glades) area. Today, it comprises 275 trees representing around forty species and sub-species.
Nor have the horticultural varieties been ignored, with 127 specimens representing 54 cultivars. Although the majority of the trees can be found in the Clairières des Conifères, there are also many in the dwarf conifer area, and other specimens are dotted around the geographic areas.
Our collection of maples (Acer genus) contains more than 400 trees representing 72 species and sub-species and 58 cultivars. It is also certified as a National Collection.
Linden tree collection
Also certified as a National Collection, the linden tree collection comprises nearly one hundred trees representing twenty-seven wild species and varieties and eighteen horticultural varieties.
There are around forty wild species and varieties of linden trees spread across Asia, Europe and North America, and there are even a few in the subtropical regions of the Mexican mountains.
Oak tree collection
At the Butte aux Chênes (Oak hillock), you can encounter indigenous trees that are many centuries old, dating back to the time of the Royal hunts. They are the largest and oldest trees of the estate.
The majority of the collection can be found in the Quercetum (term derived from the scientific Latin name for oak, Quercus), which covers nearly five hectares (12 acres). With the other specimens dotted around the geographic areas, the total oak population comprises 500 trees, representing 113 wild species and 28 horticultural varieties. It has been certified as a National Collection.
The glasshouse collections
Although the primary aim at Chèvreloup is to present trees from temperate regions, the estate also houses tropical glasshouse collections, primarily for research purposes and for the conservation of endangered species. They can only be viewed in a guided tour.
The tropical glasshouses contain more than 5,000 plants representing around 3,000 species. Covering 6,000 m², there are several glass structures and plastic tunnels that recreate varied climates, from desert zones to mountainous tropical rainforests. Plants from South Africa, Madagascar, South-East Asia, overseas France, Mexico and the rest of tropical America are particularly well represented.
Some of the most abundant groups include the orchids with 634 species out of the 30,000 known, fuchsias with 53 species of the 105 recorded, pelargoniums with 137 species out of over 400 documented, sabals, palm trees from Central America and the Caribbean with 11 species of the 16 recorded in nature (National Collection). There is also a great wealth of plants from arid zones, particularly the national collections of aloes (112 species) and their cousins, gasterias and haworthias - three genera of succulent plants with rosette leaves originating in Africa and/or Madagascar.
There is also a wide range of plants from South Africa with 412 species, including a particular group of succulent plants, the Aizoaceae-Ruschioideae, which are remarkable for their colourful flowers, shrubby, rosette-like ground growth and their highly diverse leaves, some coloured or mimetic (National Collection). Additionally, we have a remarkable collection of plants from Madagascar (271 species) to complete this superb set of wild species.
Finally, there are many Cycads, Pteridophytes and several families of epiphyte plants including Bromeliaceae.
Biodiversity of cultivated origin is also represented by the cultivars (varieties obtained by humans) of fuchsias (412) and pelargoniums (288 with coloured or variegated leaves).
The collections of botanical and horticultural fuchsias as a whole constitute a National Collection which is partly exhibited outdoors in the arboretum in the summer.