Monday, 11 June 2012

Weekend at Plaine des Palmistes

We were lucky enough to spend last weekend at the holiday house of some friends at the Plaine des Palmistes, a small town of 4000 inhabitants in Reunion's interior at about 1000m altitude.

large cross on the hillside, Bras des Calumets

At 1100-1200m we were actually a little higher than the main village, as we were in a hamlet called Bras des Calumets (which is actually not far from the start of my recent Piton Texor hike).

tree fern frond 

The house we stayed in is surrounded by over 4500 m2 of land which is covered by lots of fruit trees and also some tea bushes.

tea flower (camellia sinensis)

Although I've had the chance to see tea cultivation in many parts of the world*, and have occasionally seen tea flowers, this was the first time I'd seen the seed pod of the tea bush.

the distinctively shaped tea seed pod

There was a period during its history when Reunion grew tea (1729-1960s), and occasionally small plantations can still be found dotted around the island, but I believe a combination of factors (cyclones and lack of profitability) put paid to it as a viable option for the island's agricultural future. 


There were a great many goyavier (strawberry guava) bushes as well, some of them obviously planted by the previous owners to make an orchard. It didn't take long to fill a pail to the brim with juicy red fruit.

Goyavier bush (strawberry guava; psidium cattleianum)

There were also some of the rarer lemon guava (goyavier blanc), not to be confused with the larger common guava.

lemon guava (psidium littorale var. littorale)

There were also many citrus trees - lemons and mandarin oranges. They prefer these higher altitudes to the coast.


sword lily/gladiolus

There were quite a few ginger lilies, but as this is not their season they were not flowering (see here for pictures of them flowering).

out-of-season Ginger lilies (hedychium gardnerianum)

Lots of brightly-coloured Torch lilies also grow in profusion in the garden.

Torch lilies (Kniphofia)

Usnea lichen grows well at this altitude too. It's very sensitive to air pollution, and under bad conditions it may grow no more than a few millimetres, if at all. Where the air is unpolluted, it can grow very long, like in the photo.

long strands of Usnea lichen


big toad

Hydrangea (aka hortensia) 

I've always been fascinated by the water-repellent leaves of the taro plants (see here for a better photo of this 'lotus effect'). Our friends have planted several in their kitchen garden. A Reunion Creole proverb says "Comme (goutte d') eau sur feuille de songe", literally "like (a drop) of water on a taro leaf", meaning "it doesn't bother me".

Taro (colocasia esculenta)

slug on toadstool

Useful links:

Plaine des Palmistes on
Plaine des Palmistes on Lonely Planet's website.
Plaine des Palmistes in the Michelin guide.

No comments:

Post a Comment