In 1593, Henri IV entrusted Pierre Richer de Belleval, a botany and anatomy teacher, with the creation of a Royal Garden in order to develop "health through plants". Inspired by the "medical garden" of Padua, the Italian reference for gardens, the Jardin des Plantes of Montpellier became in turn a model for the one in Paris.

At the time of its creation, the garden was intended for the cultivation of "simples". However, Richer's project quickly went beyond medicinal plants and became a real tool for botanical study, unprecedented at the time.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier was not only a scientific garden, with its large collection of plants, but was also considered a pioneering garden in its approach to the diversity of the plant world. To promote this diversity, it reproduces different environments (shady, sunny, humid, sandy, stony, etc.) and devotes special places to exotic plants.

1st Garden (circa 1602)

1st Jardin des Plantes

The Jardin des Plantes at its creation

Richer's Mountain" is the oldest part of the garden. It served as a model for similar sites in several European gardens. It consists of a mound with five terraces on each side, and was essentially a display of local flora. The "medical garden" was once located on the site of the present cypress avenue, known as the "Tuscan avenue".

Unfortunately, this first garden was completely ruined during the siege of Montpellier by Louis XIII in 1622. Today only the "Montagne" remains.

2nd Garden (1622 - 1810)

2nd Jardin des Plantes

2nd Jardin des Plantes

From 1622 onwards, Richer de Belleval resumed his work and enlarged the garden by buying land in the neighbourhood. Later, these areas were used as a test garden by Pierre Magnol, plant demonstrator, then deputy intendant from 1694 to 1697. The systematic school was established on this site in 1707 with his pupil Joseph Pitton de Tournefort.

In 1756, the first heated greenhouse was built in the Jardin des Plantes. At the end of the 18th century, Antoine Gouän, director of the garden, carried a marcotte of his ginkgo tree which became the symbol of the École de Santé, reborn after the Revolution. Built between 1802 and inaugurated in 1806, a beautiful orangery was constructed by the famous architect Claude-Mathieu de la Gardette. In the 19th century, two greenhouses were added to the garden's facilities.

3rd garden (1810 - 1860)

3rd Jardin des Plantes

3rd Jardin des Plantes

In the course of the 19th century, the historic garden was expanded twice, more than doubling its size. With this new space, the creation of the English Garden was possible in 1860. The director at the time, Charles Martins, had a temperate greenhouse built and a lotus pond dug, known as the "Lake of the Nelumbos".

Beyond this basin is an astronomy pavilion called the "Algerian marabout". This small observatory was never used as such, but only for spectroscopic studies.

The Jardin des Plantes today

The Jardin des Plantes now has a surface area of 4.5 ha with a greenhouse area of 688 m2 and an orangery of 267 m2. The garden has a total of 2,679 species.

The Jardin des Plantes of Montpellier has a triple vocation:

The botanical garden differs from a classical garden in its collections, its display of living plants and the well identified seeds, both rare and common. The action programme of such a garden is part of the plan of the European Botanic Gardens Consortium (BGCI/IABG).

Intended for scientific research, the garden is a centre for taxonomic and horticultural studies open to international cooperation. In order to protect the scientific heritage of the Jardin des Plantes, its staff is implementing actions to enrich and safeguard the animate (plants) and inanimate (books, written documents, iconography, herbarium) collections.

With more than four centuries of history, the Garden is now protected as a site and a historical monument. In this context, the protection and enhancement of the buildings plays an important role in the life of the Garden. The conservation of the heritage is achieved through maintenance and restoration, but also through strict regulation of public visits.

Since its creation in 1596, the Jardin des Plantes has had a close link with the University because of its specialisation in the field of medicinal plants. Dedicated to higher education, the Garden regularly welcomes students to complete their theses and dissertations.

In order to bring scientific knowledge to the general public, the staff of the Jardin des Plantes develops educational activities for different categories of people.