Val Rahmeh is dedicated to acclimatisation: the Museum has been introducing species since 1966. Approximately 1,700 taxa (species, subspecies and varieties) share the site, representing 160 families and 700 genera. Today it displays an exceptional array of vegetation, with species originating from an incredibly wide geographical area.
While very little of the original agricultural property remains - just a few quadricentennial olive trees behind the house - the Mediterranean vegetation can still be seen in the garden.
The symbolic plants of the Mediterranean, cultivated since Antiquity by the Greeks and Romans - such as the Cypress, myrtle or fig tree - stand alongside the Mediterranean dwarf palm (Chamaerops humilis), the only indigenous palm on the Côte d'Azur.
In addition, the Museum has gradually introduced species from similar climatic zones, such as California, Chile, South Africa and south-western Australia.
But today, the Val Rahmeh is mainly characterised by its exoticism and displays an exceptional array of vegetation from an incredibly wide geographic area between the northern and southern hemispheres, including subtropical and tropical regions. Succulents from Central America, tree ferns from New Zealand, China rose (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) and giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) from tropical Asia all thrive in the open ground.
This exotic environment is made possible by a specific microclimate. The district of Garavan, the mildest in Menton, benefits from exceptional climatic conditions thanks to its location: facing the sea and sheltered from the north by the mountainous semicircle around it, it is both warmer and more humid than the rest of the coast. With an average annual temperature of more than 16°C, a limited risk of frost and relatively high humidity, it has a somewhat subtropical atmosphere, which is ideal for acclimatising plants from faraway countries that are sensitive to the cold.
This exotic abundance offers extraordinary fragrances, varied habits and foliage and amazing views: from the huge leaves of the Giant Water Lilies and the Victoria cruziana, the strange fruits of the Buddha's Hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) and the thorny trunk and cottony fruits of the Ceiba speciosa, for example.
Amongst all of this lushness, certain collections stand out: citrus, Arecaceae (palms), tropical fruit trees...
Two key themes dominate: conservation and ethnobotany.
- One of the garden’s missions is to ensure the conservation of endangered, rare or even extinct species in their natural environments. As such, Val Rahmeh has become a conservation garden for the Sophora toromiro, a species of shrub endemic to Easter Island, which is now extinct in the wild. Due to overharvesting and possible changes in climatic conditions, in 1957 only one single specimen remained, from which the Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl collected the seeds for cultivation. Plants born as a result of this rescue were sent to various European botanical gardens. As part of the National Museum of Natural History, Val Rahmeh received seedlings and was one of the first gardens to keep Sophora toromiro outdoors.
- Ethnobotany, the science which studies the relationships between plants and humans, is omnipresent in the garden through information media and through collections. Throughout the garden, there are species that are used for food (herbs, tropical fruit trees, citrus, edible Solanaceae, etc.), handicrafts (palm trees, bamboo, cordylines, etc.), medicine, but also for worship and spiritual uses (olive trees, cypress, lotus, etc.).