Chanousia Alpine Botanical Gardens
The garden is at the Little Saint Bernard pass, between Savoie (France) and Val d’Aosta (Italy), 2,170 above sea level, around one kilometre from the border on French territory.
“Chanousia” owes its name to its founder, Abbot Pierre Chanoux, then Rector of the nearby Hospice of the Mauritian Order, who opened it in 1897. The gardens gained international fame and came to have more than 4,000 alpine species from all over the world. It was abandoned in 1940 during the war and for a long time after this, being on newly acquired French territory, it was impossible to rebuild it and most cultivated plants were suffocated by the spontaneous vegetation. In the mid 1970s, an internal association was created to run the gardens, thanks to the involvement of Société de la Flore Valdôtaine, Société d’Histoire Naturelle de la Savoie and several botanists. Reconstruction work began in 1976.
The vegetable species are found in an ecological context (limestone rock gardens, silica moraines, peat bogs, stream banks, etc.) corresponding to their needs, and the more recent collections are grouped together according to their geographical origin. The choice of species cultivated, mostly from alpine or snow plains, is determined by the harsh climatic conditions and the shortness of the vegetation period (3 months). Most plants in the gardens blossom between the end of July and mid September. Currently, there are approximately 1,600 species of alpine plants cultivated here. The building that houses the small museum with relics of Abbot Chanoux has recently been refurbished along with rooms for scholars of alpine botany.