Arboretum: a botanical garden of exotic trees in the Canigó

We can access the St. Guillem refuge through an eight hectares forest of exotic trees

An option to start the tour of theCanigó Tour is to do it from its southern slope, arriving by car to the nucleus of La Llau, closed to Prats de Molló, and approaching on foot to the refuge of Sant Guillem, in a pleasant walk of approximately one hour and a quarter. We will enjoy a tree species botanical garden called the Arboretum.

Located near the refuge of Sant Guillem, the Arboretum of the National Forestry Office (ONF) extends to the south inside 8 hectares area, and is a spectacular forest of exotic species that is located in the former cultivated lands of the Sant Guillem farmhouse. From the neighbourhood of La Llau, you must take the path indicated by a yellow sign, where “Sant Guillem” is written and, after a short time, we will enter the Arboretum.

Around 1950, the State wants to reforest this territory through the Forestry Commission, called “Waters and Forests”, the forest managers of the Alt Vallespir, establishing exotic species for the enjoyment and learning of the inhabitants of the area and visitors. The Arboretum was also created to determine the adaptation to the territory of different species, and study which is the highest altitude (between 1168 and 1256 m), climate (mountains of the Mediterranean) and kind of territory (south side of Canigó mountain) to which suits each one. The first plantations, carried out in 1955, continued until 1994, and bring together a genetic diversity of high heritage interest, through 66 species from different origins and from 4 continents.

The forests group three main types of resin (pine and spruce), but also others such as redwoods, for example, as well as some leaf species (red oak or Virginia tulips). Over time, plantations have evolved differently depending on the species. Pine, spruce, cedar, spruce and sequoia occupy the areas below the refuge, the highest. Among the 40 types of exotic resins, the Arboretum is also composed of species native to the region, originating from Canigó or from the red pines of Forest de la Mata, located in the Capcir (Matemale, Les Angles and Formiguera), and area about 50 km norther than here.

Unfortunately, this remarkable diversity was damaged in January 2009 by the storm Klaus, which affected the entire southwest region of France. In the Alt Vallespir, it caused important damages, which can still be perceived in some forests. Aware of the rich heritage of this botanical garden, the National Forestry Office (ONF) today receives aid from the Grand Site du Canigó brand to recreate its splendour and the enjoyment of its visitors.

We encourage you to visit this beautiful botanical garden while you start, from its southern slope, the Tour of the Canigó Tour!(4 days).

These contents are disclosed on the web www.refugesantguillem.com.

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