Established a half-century ago on a mountain slope high above the Caribbean sea, Papillote Tropical Gardens is one of Dominica’s leading attractions for both island residents and visitors from around the world. Open to the public from November to August, Papillote Tropical Gardens is an extraordinary collection of botanical and other natural wonders that ranks among the very best in the Caribbean.
Fourteen acres of nurtured wilderness are nestled in a canopy of tree fern and breadfruit trees, providing a lush, green frame for the many microhabitats within the rainforest garden. Collections of aroids, begonias, bromeliads, gingers, heliconias and indigenous orchids form sumptuous botanical compositions, where shape, color and texture conspire to their best advantage.
Walking paths crisscross cold and hot mineral streams that gurgle along the natural contours of the land, leading from one themed glade to another. Sparkling sunlight filters through the canopy, creating controlled windows of light that fall upon plant life comfortably suited to each spot.
To the casual observer it all appears natural and wild, yet the luxuriant, tangled growth has actually been designed with care and to great effect. The rocky soil, very high rainfall (250 inches per year), an elevation of 1,000 ft and the orientation within the valley create intense microclimate conditions that support luxuriant growth. These conditions constrain the gardener but also enrich the content of the garden by creating a homogenous and coherent style of garden design. Constant attention to drainage and erosion control, terracing and mulching to build up the soil is crucial.
Splashes of brilliant color spatter the landscape at every turn. Spiked stands of hot pink ginger give way to a sea of flaming red anthurium, while iridescent purple and green hummingbirds flash from one bloom to the next.
Two waterfalls cascade down the verdant mountainside within the garden’s boundaries, creating cold water streams that flow to the Roseau River. A series of volcanic hot pools punctuate the garden landscape, beckoning our guests to indulge in a steaming, mineral-laden bath that relaxes the body and calms the mind.
Papillote Tropical Gardens is committed to conserving indigenous species and celebrating the natural biodiversity of Dominica’s rainforests. Rare aroids, such as the Philodendrum giganteum and the Anthurium dominicense, were collected long ago as well as the endangered Epidendrum discoidale, sheltered discretely among the Papillote flora.
Some very unusual plants have been acquired such as the surreal Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, pictured at right, which has been flowering since June 1997. A close relative, the A. titanum, produces the largest flower in the world. Another extraordinary plant at Papillote, which blooms between January and May, is the Indonesian Strongylodon macrobotrys – the aquamarine Jade Vine. Learn more about our botanical collections.
Today’s Papillote Tropical Gardens is the second incarnation of a garden that co-founder Anne Jno Baptiste started in 1967 with collections of mosses, ferns and orchids. In 1979, Hurricane David destroyed the original garden when the Roseau Valley was stripped of soil and vegetation, reducing a dense tropical rainforest to bare stone and brown in a few hours. It is difficult to imagine that the lush green surroundings of today’s Papillote are less than 40 years old. Learn more about our history.
Where in the World is Papillote?Use the map controls (+/-) to zoom in or out.
About DominicaSituated between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the southern Caribbean, the Commonwealth of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) is often called “The Nature Island” thanks to its unspoilt tracts of lush rainforest that carpet the island’s rugged mountains, which soar up to five thousand feet above the sea.
An independent nation since 1978, agriculture and tourism are mainstays of the local economy. As a travel destination, Dominica’s stunning physical beauty, extraordinary rainforest ecosystems, thundering rivers and waterfalls, and unusual volcanic features hold a special appeal for an eclectic mix of nature lovers and adventurers, botanists and birders, photographers and writers.
Travel TipsYour journey to Papillote Tropical Gardens likely begins with air transport to one of the major Caribbean hub airports, such as Puerto Rico (SJU), Sint Maarten (SXM) or Antigua (ANU). Regional connecting air service to Dominica’s Douglas-Charles International Airport (DOM) on the island’s northeast coast is available from these hubs via LIAT, Seaborne and American Eagle. Windward Island Airways also offers direct flights from SXM to Dominica’s west coast airport, Canefield (DCF), located just a few miles north of Roseau, Dominica’s capital city. Papillote Tropical Gardens and the village of Trafalgar can be reached by 10-minute taxi ride from Roseau. Local bus service is also available.
Most visitors arrive by air at Douglas-Charles and hire a taxi for transport across the island to Roseau. Travel time is approximately 1.5 hours.
Visitors also arrive via cruise ship, private charter and ferry service from neighboring islands Guadeloupe and Martinique. Cruise ship visitors can book a unique shore excursion to Papillote Tropical Gardens with transport via local taxi.