Walking through the gardens at Hotel Meudon, it is easy to be captivated by the variety of incredible species that thrive here. Huge beech and oak trees tower above and, at lower level, the variety of richly-coloured rose flowers will fill your senses with a sweet, delicate, and nostalgic aroma. Each time the meandering pathways are strolled along, a previously unnoticed plant, flower or tree can reveal itself. Meudon Garden has an interesting history and has been created and developed over the years with a wonderful array of flora, both native to these shores and imports from overseas, that simply love the conditions that this coastal, yet sheltered, valley garden offers. This sub-tropical style garden lets thrive a few special trees and plants that possess an incredible history, and can transport you back to a time when dinosaurs walked the earth…
At the top of the main path that winds its way through the gardens, you will find the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia Nobilis). This is an incredibly special tree as it was thought to be extinct for the last 2 million years. However, in 1994, a group of researchers exploring the Blue Canyons in Australia, stumbled upon a small collection of Wollemi Pines. This location remains secret, to ensure this species stays protected and avoids damage through disease spread. Fossil records for this species suggest that between 100 - 200 million years ago they were present across all of Australia as well as inhabiting the vast majority of forests in Antarctica and New Zealand!
Ancient Tree Ferns
One of the most primitive species found in the gardens is the Australian Tree Fern (Dicksonia Antarctica) which existed long before dinosaurs. This species is so ancient that they were present before flowering or cone bearing plants had evolved, dating back hundreds of millions of years. They were an essential component of the Carboniferous Period 300 to 360 million years ago and became the main base of the fossil fuels we use today. They reproduce differently to most plants in our gardens through primitive spores (they do not flower but mature plants produce spores on the underside of the leaves). Through the floor to ceiling windows in Restaurant Meudon you have a front row seat to the first ever tree ferns planted in the garden, which are now around 200 years old!
Dinner for a Dinosaur?
As you make your way through the gardens, you cannot help but cast your eyes towards a beautiful and unusual plant whose vast, dark green leaves can reach a diameter of two metres! Gunnera (Gunnera Manicata) is often also called ‘Giant Rhubarb’ but it also has a third nickname: Dinosaur Food! This plant loves growing in damp, marshy areas and were thought to be a common food source for dinosaurs. Botanists have determined that the Gunnera family has been around since the Cretaceous period due to information revealed by fossilised pollen spores. This plant loves the Cornish climate, and is stunning when fully grown (spring until late summer). It is a must-see (and quite hard to miss!) when you visit Meudon!
If you’ve yet to spend any time in Meudon Gardens it is, as with one or two other valley gardens in the area such as Trebah and Glendurgan, a calming, relaxing and immersive experience. Whether walking off a hearty lunch, heading to Bream Cove for a dip or maybe enjoying the early morning as the sun peeps over the bottom of the gardens and the dawn chorus is in full swing, it is always worthwhile taking your time and being curious as to what you will spot. We can’t promise you’ll come across a dinosaur, but you can see what they might have had for lunch!